I hate to tell you this, but you're not perfect. Neither am I, however much I might like to be. This week I'm talking about perfectionism - what it is, and how you can manage it so that it has less of an impact on you.
We all have a little bit of perfectionism in us. That tiny voice that says "if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right" or "if you don't have high standards, you don't have anything." That voice often comes from our parents, or our friends and family when we were young, and the reason it sticks with us is because behaving like this has some advantages as well as disadvantages. You can have high standards and enjoy it, and it doesn't have to take its toll on your self-esteem. But for lots of people, that's not the case. Let's take a look at what perfectionism is, and how you can cope with it.
What is perfectionism?
Perfectionism is a personality trait, which means it isn't just related to how people act, it's about how they think and feel as well. People who are perfectionists often work very hard, striving towards the goals that they set for themselves or goals that others set for them. Sometimes they get pleasure from meeting the targets they set, and sometimes these goals can make them really miserable.
Let me be clear - perfectionism as something that you hold very dear isn't healthy. It's impossible to be perfect, and trying to be can only lead to stress and sadness. Although we often think that there are advantages to perfectionism (tasks get done well, people view you as reliable and good at meeting targets, you succeed at what you want to do) there are many more downsides to tying your self-worth to trying to be perfect. Perfectionistic tendencies have been linked to lots of different difficulties, including:
We tend to see perfectionism as a positive thing a lot of the time - it's seen as a mark of someone who is thorough, careful and good at their job. Just having high standards isn't the problem - it's striving for an unrealistic ideal that's the issue. And the bit that people don't see is the relentless self-critical thoughts that often come with being a perfectionist.
"You can do better than that"
"You're so stupid - why can't you do things right?!"
"You'll never be good enough"
If you recognise this kind of thought process when things don't go exactly the way you want them to, you might describe yourself as a perfectionist. Now that we know it's not helpful or healthy, what can we do about it?
How to manage perfectionism
And there you have it. If perfectionism is something that you really struggle with, get in touch, I might be able to help. Let me know your tips for managing perfectionism in the comments.
Dr Sarah Blackshaw: Clinical Psychologist, blogger, tea drinker, interested in dinosaurs and shiny objects