Perfectionist Traits: Do These Sound Familiar?

Are Too-High Expectations Wrecking Your Inner Peace?

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If you’re wondering whether or not you’re a perfectionist, there’s a good chance you are one, at least to a degree. Perfectionists are a lot like high achievers, but with some key differences. These differences are important, as perfectionists tend to experience more stress! The following are ten telltale traits of perfectionists. Do any of these sound familiar?

All-Or-Nothing Thinking:

Perfectionists, like high achievers, tend to set high goals and work hard toward them.

However, a high achiever can be satisfied with doing a great job and achieving excellence (or something close), even if their very high goals aren’t completely met. Perfectionists will accept nothing less than, well, perfection. ‘Almost perfect’ is seen as failure.

Critical Eye:

Perfectionists are far more critical of themselves and of others than are high achievers. While high achievers take pride in their accomplishments and tend to be supportive of others, perfectionists tend to spot tiny mistakes and imperfections in their work and in themselves, as well as in others and their work. They hone in on these imperfections and have trouble seeing anything else, and they’re more judgmental and hard on themselves and on others when ‘failure’ does occur.

“Push” vs “Pull”:

High achievers tend to be pulled toward their goals by a desire to achieve them, and are happy with any steps made in the right direction.

Perfectionists, on the other hand, tend to be pushed toward their goals by a fear of not reaching them and see anything less than a perfectly met goal as a failure.

Unrealistic Standards:

Unfortunately, a perfectionist’s goals aren’t always even reasonable. While high achievers can set their goals high, perhaps enjoying the fun of going a little further once goals are reached, perfectionists often set their initial goals out of reach.

Because of this, high achievers tend to be not only happier but more successful than perfectionists in the pursuit of their goals.

Focus on Results:

High achievers can enjoy the process of chasing a goal as much or more than the actual reaching of the goal itself. Conversely, perfectionists see the goal and nothing else. They’re so concerned about meeting the goal and avoiding the dreaded failure that they can’t enjoy the process of growing and striving.

Depressed by Unmet Goals:

Perfectionists are much less happy and easygoing than high achievers. While high achievers are able to bounce back fairly easily from disappointment, perfectionists tend to beat themselves up much more and wallow in negative feelings when their high expectations go unmet. This leads to…

Fear of Failure:

Perfectionists are also much more afraid to fail than are high achievers. Because they place so much stock in results and become so disappointed by anything less than perfection, failure becomes a very scary prospect.

And, since anything less than perfection is seen as ‘failure’, this can lead to…

Procrastination:

It seems paradoxical that perfectionists would be prone to procrastination, as that trait can be detrimental to productivity, but perfectionism and procrastination do tend to go hand in hand. This is because, fearing failure as they do, perfectionists will sometimes worry so much about doing something imperfectly that they become immobilized and fail to do anything at all! This leads to more feelings of failure, and a vicious cycle is thus perpetuated.

Defensiveness:

Because a less-than-perfect performance is so painful and scary to perfectionists, they tend to take constructive criticism defensively, while high achievers can see criticism as valuable information to help their future performance.

Low Self Esteem:

High achievers tend to have equally high esteem; not so with perfectionists. They tend to be very self-critical and unhappy, and suffer from low self-esteem. They can also be lonely or isolated as their critical nature and rigidity can push others away as well. This can lead to lower self-esteem.

If you see some of these perfectionist traits in yourself, don’t despair. Recognizing that a change may be needed is a very important first step toward creating a more easygoing nature and achieving the inner peace and real success that comes from overcoming perfectionism and being able to say that ‘almost perfect’ is still a job very well done! Think you're a perfectionist? This quiz can tell you if you are. And if so, read this article for important tips on overcoming perfectionist traits and enjoying your life, your work, and your self more!

Sources:

Wirtz PH, Elsenbruch S, Emini L, Rüdisüli K, Groessbauer S, Ehlert U. Perfectionism and the cortisol response to psychosocial stress in men. Psychosomatic Medicine, April 2007.

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