Understanding perfectionism

Understanding perfectionism

Imagine a perfect way of doing your job. Now think about all the factors that it can include. Perhaps sustained focus, the highest level of motivation, your skillset, and co-operation from your colleagues.

Now all of this may help you achieve the best and the highest result but someone else may achieve the same results by doing the task in an opposite and maybe even in a laid-back way. Who is perfect in this example according to you? 

The very notion of perfectionism requires the fulfillment of certain unattainable criteria. Perfectionism is measured by both internal and external validation which means you need to undergo evaluation by yourself as well as others. This can create a very vulnerable position for the individual striving for perfection and can make them a soft target.

What are the characteristics of a perfectionist attitude?

All or Nothing Mindset

This is a thinking error where an individual believes that the outcome is either the best or the worst. They look at the results in a very black-and-white approach. This polarization can eliminate a lot of opportunities that exist in the “grey zone”. For example, if the manager gives negative feedback, a perfectionist can stay up all night and re-work the program or quit the project altogether. 

Critical Evaluation

Plays a very crucial role in measuring perfectionism. The standards used, both internal and external are very high and demand flawlessness from the individual. The measures used to assess the goal in itself can end up becoming an obstacle for the Individual. The goal sets are often very unrealistic and can make one sabotage all their other priorities in life.

Choosing perfection over experimentation

A perfectionist would always strive to perfect a skill or art. This is a little different from mastering it. Choosing excellence means repeating an activity until the demand for it to be perfect has been met. This can be daunting because the individual focuses much more on the goal and less on the journey that leads them to achieve the goal. This limits them to try new approaches and experiment with things in life.

No room for mistakes

A perfectionist attitude does not allow flexibility or mistakes. They can plan for every possible mistake but there can be some unprecedented challenges that can lead to failures or mistakes. Failures and mistakes are important for every individual because they show us what NOT to repeat the next time. They play a crucial role in helping you realize what you truly value and need to preserve. No skill can be acquired without making mistakes. It is often very difficult for a perfectionist to allow themselves to fail, experiment, and make mistakes and they can get impacted by it quite a lot.

Glorification of the goal

For someone who is a perfectionist, the goal is so important to achieve that it can overshadow all the other things. For example, a student who is extremely motivated to crack the UPSC exam can overlook their health, eating and sleeping habits, social activities, and all other things because he is so goal-oriented. The goal-orientedness is so high that it runs the risk of damaging other important factors. 

Perfectionism is not a bad thing but it is important to analyze if it is helping you move forward and grow. Perfectionism can even be great at times but if you are aiming to make long-term and sustainable changes, other approaches can help you.

What approach can you use instead?

Being consistent

If you want to achieve growth in anything, the secret always lies in being consistent. It gives the same results as financial interest that gets compounded with time. For example, if your long-term goal is to achieve fitness, it is more beneficial to do a twenty-minute workout every day than a one-hour workout every once in a while. Being consistent can also help you keep a close track of the progress that is happening daily on a measurable level.

Starting small, growing big

There is nothing wrong with taking baby steps. Start by taking small risks first and once you become comfortable with the pace, gradually increase your difficulty levels. As you start taking small risks and achieving smaller targets, it gradually increases your confidence and competency as well. 

Keeping yourself in check

It is very natural to feel lost and confused about your priorities and goals. If you feel overwhelmed and isolated navigating through it all alone, talk it out to a professional. Mental Health Professionals can help you navigate through these challenging times and can introduce you to different perspectives as well. 

Analyzing your priorities

Take a moment to reflect on understanding why you are driven to achieve a goal. How will this goal help you in life? Journaling is a great tool to find answers to your questions. 

If you need further help to manage perfectionism, Manah can help you with counseling sessions, wellbeing toolkits, emotional helpline numbers and so much more.