Clinical Perfectionism - When is perfect not good?

It is great when we do a good job of something. There is a real sense of accomplishment when we set a goal and meet it.

But.....there is a real difference between working hard to achieve a goal and perfectionism.

People who have a problem with perfectionism measure their self worth on their ability to achieve really high standards.

If they do not meet these exceptional standards, then they berate themselves, feel unworthy and push themselves even harder to achieve further and higher goals.

Perfectionism can drive people to a point where it is difficult for them to be happy and can be associated with excessive tension, stress, worry and depression.

Signs that perfectionism may be a problem include:

  • Procrastination or putting things off
  • Giving up easily or not trying to do things they might get wrong
  • Not knowing when to stop
  • Checking things to see if they are right or checking with others who can give you reassurance
  • Being slow to make decisions or to speak

People can be perfectionistic in different parts of their lives:

  • Work or school
  • Household cleaning or chores
  • Sport or fitness
  • Weight and body shape
  • Popularity

Perfectionism can be tricky to challenge alone. People can get caught in a cycle of being told that they are great or achieving good things to the point where if they are not achieving, they feel inadequate or worthless.

Psychologists can help treat perfectionism that is causing unhappiness and tension by helping people to :

  • Look at their own cycles of perfectionism
  • Challenge perfectionistic thinking
  • Set up some ways of testing perfectionistic rules and assumptions
  • Re-evaluating the importance of achieving.

For more information on perfectionism, check out....

“Overcoming perfectionism” by Roz Shafran, Sarah Egan and Tracey Wade (2010)