Perfectionism- a state of refusal to accept any standard short of perfection., a personality trait characterised by a person who strives for flawlessness; somebody who sets high expectations of oneself and self-critiques at every opportunity.
Perfect simply does not exist, so why do so many of us centre our lives around it? It is totally unattainable and a self-destructive pattern of thought that can become hard to lose. Some of us think that we thrive on the praise it creates, many believe it’s the key for ‘bettering’ oneself and others think perfect means success. This is simply not the case.
During secondary school, I was quite the perfectionist. I worked really really hard, but I was also really really hard on myself for my mistakes/failures. Looking back now I can clearly see they were not failures, but things which I believed I could have done better at. I strived to be top of the class, even during the beginning of my illness. I sat my GCSE’s after being in school only a few hours a day for 5 months, so when my results day came, my inner perfectionist came out and all I could think about was how I would’ve done if I had been full time at school. I was really sad on results day and looking back, I should have been so proud of my amazing results!
I think that there is so much focus on social rewards that it forces people to enter the corrupt mind of a perfectionist. Praise for reaching high standards and being correct is prioritised over praise for trying hard and producing something amazing.
Children pick up on these behaviours and it almost eliminates the chance of them having a ‘growth mindset’ in the future. Adults are role models and children are impressionable. If adults fail to encourage the idea that perfect is simply an imaginary concept, then generations below them will continue to believe that they are not good enough.
Perfectionism can present in a number of ways. Many of us will identify with more than one characteristic, however, some will relate to none. Here is a picture that visually displays some of the main traits.
Additional signs may include unrealistic expectations, low self-worth, excessive checking, never being good enough, and crushing one’s own personal achievements.
So is there a difference between trying your best and working too hard? The line between healthy goals and unhealthy perfectionism is different for everyone and can be hard to identify- I’m not sure I quite know where the boundary is for myself yet!
If I am entering a little perfectionist mindset, I try to remind myself that I would never act that way towards another person without being considered obnoxious and rude! I also tell myself that aiming to be perfect actually hinders any progress and ends up as time wasted as I’m too busy obsessing over being perfect!
Sorry that this post has been a little bit of an unorganised mess, but if you take anything away from it please let it be that your children are copying you! Don’t encourage them to be perfect, encourage them to try!