We have all known a perfectionist at some point in our lives. On the one hand, they are great to have in a group project because they tend to take over and produce amazing work. On the other hand, they can be exacting, unrealistic, and detached in relationships.
Perfectionism may lead to positive outcomes like good grades, career achievement, and a clean and organized home. However, it can be the source of anxiety, depression, stress, and failed relationships. Perfectionists may see these traits as an advantage at times, but these same characteristics may cause emotional and relationship afflictions throughout the perfectionist’s life.
What causes perfectionism?
There is no singular cause of perfectionism. It may be a personality trait that is apparent to family and friends from a young age – the toddler who lines toys up in a very specific order (and throws a tantrum if anyone dares to disrupt the pattern), the child who hides a test from parents if it has a “bad” grade, or the adolescent who is overly organized, high-achieving, and self-critical.
It may also be a coping mechanism that was developed as a result of disparaging, unloving, and unpredictable parents or caregivers. Perfectionism often emerges as a way to try and gain love and acceptance. Some perfectionists develop the belief that they must be perfect in order to receive attention and affection. Others learn that they suffer less punishment and/or abuse by being perfect and not rocking the boat.
Perfectionism can be an intrinsic personality trait, or an adaptive way of dealing with unpredictability and trauma. However, when these behaviors become burdensome, overwhelming, and destructive, it’s time for the perfectionist to evaluate if the need to be “perfect” outweighs finding balance, intimacy, and satisfaction in life.
Are you a perfectionist?
Here are some common adverse characteristics of adult perfectionists:
- Fear of failure in many areas of life – career, social relationships, parenting, marriage, finances
- Lack of intimacy in relationships due to inability to be vulnerable with others
- Overly critical of spouse or romantic partner – he/she never does enough
- Highly sensitive to criticism (perceived or actual)
- Unrealistic expectations in a relationship – requiring others to also be “perfect”
- Inability to be interdependent on another person
- Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious and depressed due to the pressures of perfection
- Pattern of failed relationships – friendships, marriages, romantic partnerships
Do you think perfectionism may be negatively impacting your life? If so, counseling can help you identify where perfectionism started for you, and help you develop skills to effectively manage your perfectionistic tendencies. Contact NewPoint of View Counseling today to get started on the path of hope and healing! As a professional therapist, I look forward to helping you to live your most authentic life, filled with love, trust, and personal satisfaction.