This is how perfectionism is harming your relationship, according to a psychologist.

Let’s say it’s your senior year project paper, oh my goodness, it has to be perfect. How perfect? Somewhat between the vicinity of at least a B+ to an A+. That kinda perfect. We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a final paper, a business presentation, or even asking your crush out on a date, perfectionism might not sound bad, but has the tendency of ruining our unexpected experiences.

According to a clinical psychologist, she claims she doesn’t recall a single client arriving at a first session asking for help to overcome perfectionism. As most perfectionists see it as their key strength which makes them somehow exceptional. Albeit strength (or weakness), perfectionism is harming your relationship than you least expect.


Related media: How To Recognize And Cure Perfectionism


Perfectionism 101

A crash course about who fits the definition, first. This is simply someone’s tendency to constantly strive to be perfect. Period! This pushes them to meet up with expectations and live up to certain norms and standards. They try as much as possible as to meet up with excellence, or else they are not good enough. They often deem it as a moral obligation which is a critical part of their identity. To them, maintaining their self-esteem is the most important thing above all else.

Let’s face it, perfectionism creates chronic stress, whether acknowledge it or not. This raises the distinction between one’s personal best from setting higher than average standards to achieve. Its quite admirable. However, constantly setting high goals, working ridiculously hard to achieve them, and being mentally resilient upon success, could set off the balance. This kind of person is known as adaptive perfectionist (although it might be an inappropriate term). But for purpose of this article, in particular, let’s focus on the maladaptive nature of perfectionism.



When Is Perfectionism Harmful?

The need to be flawless, making no mistakes, and being exceptionally good, is when we can safely say that “perfectionism is maladaptive.” This often leads to self-criticism and/or the criticism of others. “It must be perfect, else it’s worthless!” Most often than not, perfectionists get stuck with the fear of failure, and the tendency of procrastinating, coupled with the anxiety of moving forward. Its like a loop they want to escape, but they’re not able to do so because of their own attitude. They always focus on avoiding failure than reaching success.

Most perfectionist are influenced by several factors that leads them to these habits. They are often not aware of these effects upon themselves or others; but are more likely aware of the consequences, such as anxiety, frustration, or disappointment. Most perfectionists are more likely having a history of early childhood traumatic experiences — a risk factor that tends to influence perfectionism in adulthood. Here are two clinical forms of perfectionism, with each one having a history of emotional trauma.



Perfectionism 202

#1. Self-oriented perfectionism: Ama is an intelligent, beautiful young lady with a strong personality. Always keen on her appearance, the cleanliness of her home, as well as the quality of her work. She’s the stereotypical “hard-to-get” kinda lady. Unfortunately, she has had a series of disappointing relationships where she was criticized for not being the ideal woman. That alone has left an emotional scar on her, feeling that she has to be perfect or else… you know. Ama has a history of childhood emotional neglect and sexual abuse during her teen years.

#2. Other-oriented perfectionism: Kofi is also an energetic, charismatic young man. He was the first of four siblings growing up, so he did much of the chores of the house, let alone he had strict parents, too. He was always blamed if things went wrong, and he constantly had to be… “perfect” just to please his parents. For his younger siblings, he had to complain now and then about their “laziness and sloppiness” at home. Now, he’s married, and you just imagine how he’ll deal with his wife and kids. He always wants to see a perfectly tidied home, or else it’s not good enough.

Here’s a mashup scenario: What if Kofi married Ama. Would he be abusive to her? Would she constantly tidy up to please him? Will they instill a sense of perfectionism in their kids, too? These are the questions these scenarios present. Ama is concerned with her perfection, whereas Kofi is with others being perfect to suit his lifestyle. These are two of the three forms of perfectionism — self-oriented perfectionism and other-oriented perfectionism. The third is socially prescribed perfectionism: a person who feels like others are always expecting them to be perfect, regardless.



How To Cope With Perfectionism

Dealing with perfectionism is not an easy one. This requires acknowledging how it plays out in your life first of all. Consider whether it’s affecting your happiness or avoiding you from making progress. Ask yourself these questions: do you tend to procrastinate when working? Is it the fear of failure? Are you scared of other people judging your attitude? Or are you not satisfied with your partner or employees? Identify the source of your perfectionistic tendencies and know how to tackle them. To be continued…

Let us know if you’re a perfectionist.


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sat, Mar 12, 2022.

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