Do you have a strong sense of right and wrong? Are you picky, judgemental, opinionated and impatient? And whilst you may be highly critical of other people, are you in fact much harder on yourself? Do you believe you are not good enough and often feel an overwhelming sense of failure if you don’t live up to your own exacting standards?
If this sounds familiar, then it’s time to face up to the fact that you are a perfectionist.
But being a perfectionist is not always a bad thing. There are times in all our lives when it’s helpful to strive to be the best version of yourself, as it can motivate you to perform at a high level and deliver top-quality work. On the other hand, unless you can learn to understand and moderate your controlling behaviours, you will intensely annoy those people around you. And may also find yourself susceptible to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harm and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Childhood can hold the answers
Most perfectionists will have grown up in a critical home environment, where either your parents or your main care giver had high expectations. In some cases, they might have withdrawn attention to show their disappointment in your behaviour. The result is that you quickly learnt that the only way of getting attention and feeling accepted is by pushing yourself harder in order to perform better. So, in effect, you grew up believing you were not good enough unless you were perfect at everything.
Break the cycle
It is possible to change the perception that you are only accepted as a person if you are perfect. Start by relaxing, take some time for yourself and essentially give yourself permission to make mistakes.
I would advise in the first instance, that you select something light (not too onerous). It could be cleaning or cooking, but the key here is to notice what happens if you don’t do it to your usual high standard. Take note of how you feel when things don’t go to plan. And instead of allowing the tension or unconscious impulses to build up, so that you need to fix things, simply acknowledge them and then let them go.
Watch out for how this feels as you let these feelings go. Do you become irritable or angry? Do you turn your attention to something else you want to control? Notice these emotions without judgement and perhaps take the opportunity for a change of scene. Get some fresh air. Go for a walk. Do a puzzle or crossword. But most importantly remind yourself that you’re perfect just as you are.
Adjust your standards
“I really believe that it is honesty about our imperfect selves that makes everyone do better and be better.” Dan Pearce
I agree with Dan’s quote. Through awareness and a willingness to find acceptance of others, comes an ability to be honest and non-judgemental about our own imperfections. Remember, the fear of losing control and not being good enough will drive you to irritability, anger, and at times rage, when others don’t live up to your expectations.
This is not something you can keep doing for the rest of your life – for a start it’s exhausting! Occasionally, I see these behaviours in couples and I always urge them to open up, be honest, stop beating yourself up and start communicating. Only when this happens, change is possible.
If you are in a relationship with a perfectionist partner it can be challenging. But help and support from a qualified therapist can make a huge difference. Give me a call on 0121 745 9044 to book an appointment.