Do you strive for perfection? Many folks do and it is a
burden for you and for those around you. Nobody's perfect,
but you sometimes feel a constant pressure to do things exactly as
they "should" be done every single time.
If this is a pattern for you, it is well worth the time to examine
it carefully and consider breaking the mold. You'll be much
happier, and much more attractive. In my psychotherapy
practice, I was once talking with a woman who also enjoyed doing
cross-stitch as I do. She told me that she sometimes would
take out hours and hours of work for one imperfect stitch. As we
spoke, it became evident that there was no area of her life where
she could relax and relieve herself of this pressure to do things
perfectly. Her relationships were fraught with the tension
of being "nice", being "proper", being
"liked", being perfect. Mostly her life was ruled
by the impossibility of succeeding. Why? Because she
was doing difficult things for the wrong reasons and tying herself
up in knots in the process.
Perfectionism has its roots in the desire--and need--to be
accepted. Perfectionists have been trained to approach
everything they do in ways that will impress the people they care
about. They want to impress them so much so that those
people will want to take them to themselves and never let them go.
Rather than being taught to accept themselves, they were trained
to make themselves SO socially acceptable to others that that is
their only focus.
Parents play a primary role in creating this drive for acceptance
in you. The desire for acceptance is normal but the drive
for acceptance is excessive. That drive comes from the idea
that you must never fail to impress those who are important to
you. For some folks, that is generalized into wanting to
impress every single person, important to them or not.
Commitment to this tireless and endless effort stand in the way of
knowing that most folks are lovable and acceptable just because
Perfectionism is rooted in the foolish and futile attempt to do
the impossible for dubious reasons. It creates anxiety and
makes each day stressful. In the extreme, some folks feel
that making a mistake should be punishable by death! It
wastes time and energy. It is very difficult for a
perfectionist to create a close
relationship with anyone. When you are never satisfied with
yourself, you can never rest. You may even resent the folks
you are trying so hard to please. In the final result, the
lives of perfectionists are run by other people--people who may
approve of them if they are perfect enough.
Imagine the disarray in a relationship when a perfectionist wants
the approval of a controller. No matter what the
perfectionist does, the controller keeps moving the marker,
wanting a little more perfection. What a nightmare!
What a great relationship to leave!
If you find yourself in a constant state of anxiety, spend a few
moments examining your degree of perfectionism. Sure, it's a
great thing to have occasionally, but it is a destructive way to
live constantly. Are you beating yourself up for not being
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD All rights reserved worldwide.
Rhoberta Shaler is a keynote speaker, consultant and seminar
presenter who works with organizations to improve workplace
relationships, build & strengthen teams and manage conflict,
anger, and difficult people. Visit her at sowpeace.com.