What are the signs that you might be a perfectionist? Chances are, If your perfectionism is not affecting your moods if you feel great when you achieve something and laugh when you don’t and keep aiming higher, great. You are what’s known as a ‘normal’, ‘adaptive’, or ‘positive’ perfectionist, or what some people would say should just be called a high achiever. This type of perfectionism is healthy and serves to propel you towards your goals.
But if you are one of the many who suffer from perfectionism, who live with a running soundtrack of self-defeating thoughts and constantly feel like life lets you down, then you have, ‘maladaptive’, or ‘negative’ perfectionism.
I’ve spent way too many years wearing the perfectionist mask. Being someone else…shrinking from authenticity and becoming someone far removed from the real me.
Because I was afraid. Conditioned with expectations disconnected me from exactly who I was.
I had no idea what the signs were or that I might be a perfectionist.
If you think you might struggle with perfectionism as well, here are some distinct characteristics that most perfectionists share.
1.Exaggerated fear of failure
Perfectionists typically live their lives in a state of high alert, constantly on the lookout for failure in all its forms. Making mistakes, far from being an acceptable human trait, is considered a sign of weakness, stupidity or “undeservedness”. This is especially true when it comes to their own competencies. Perfectionists might even see failure as something that is absolute, an ending, or a sign of doom.
Rampant self-criticism can turn into a way of life for individuals living with negative perfectionism. An inner voice constantly putting you down and finding fault is common. Happiness, too, may turn into something to be suspicious of rather than to accept, as the perfectionist chooses self-punishment over joy.
Excessive self-criticism might lead perfectionists to isolate themselves from family and friends because they don’t feel good enough about themselves to contribute to a relationship. Finally, people in the grip of perfectionism often direct undue criticism towards others, seeing others’ flaws over strengths.
Even though perfectionists can be hard on others, it does not mean they enjoy others being hard on them. If the appraisal does come their way, they tend to be extremely sensitive if it is not positive. Even constructive criticism will be shut out or taken the wrong way.
4.Black and white thinking
Many perfectionists view the world around them, and even their own existence, in the starkest terms. Everything is either right or wrong and black or white, with no shades of grey and no middle ground that can be shared with others. This all-or-nothing thinking or black and white thinking is populated with highly moralistic “shoulds” and “musts” that take their toll on relationships and make perfectionism a very lonely and alienating place. A perfectionist’s view might be that people either love you or hate you, are with you or against you.
Perfectionists might also believe there is only one way of doing things. And this ‘right way’ coincides with the perfectionist’s preferred choice.
A perfectionist’s desires for themselves and their lives tend to be unattainable. This leads to a lessened sense of self-worth when their unrealistic goals are not reached. They might also hold unrealistic standards for those around them, constantly feeling let down by others. Often they view others from an unrealistic perspective of how easily other people achieve things and how happy others are, which adds to their struggle for a sense of value.
The inability to tolerate being average often results in chronic procrastination and indecision. Perfectionism can dictate it is better to not start a project at all then start it and fail.
7.Constant stress and/or anxiety
Perfectionists suffer the combined stress of procrastination on one hand, compulsive attention to detail or workaholism when one does start a project on the other, and as well the inability to finish a project for fear of failure.
Both ongoing self-criticism and constantly failing to achieve goals because they were unrealistic in the first place, can leave a neurotic perfectionist constantly feeling negative about themselves.
9.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.
If you struggle with perfectionism and want to find a better way, check out some helpful tips to change this pattern of behaviour.
If you’d like support, contact me here.
Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.