Growing up, my parents were what could be called organized. With four children they couldn’t afford practically any spontaneity. Besides being demanding with themselves, they were demanding with us. Getting straight A’s in school was the norm and almost went unnoticed because, according to them, “Your only job is to study.” They were right, in a way, the only problem is that, when you are a child, you crave for love and approval.
Understanding that some people have difficulties to express their feelings is a long due obligation we tend to achieve during adulthood. Usually, perfectionists get their fix reaching unattainable goals in everything they do, each time they do anything.
A new star is born
Some like me, inherit their perfectionism from demanding authoritarian father figures. Others, grow up in an environment in which they receive constant praise, but that can also cause extra pressure to maintain an unrealistic standard. Don’t get me wrong, a balanced level of approval is necessary and healthy, but all extremes are equally damaging. One significant consequence arises when self-esteem depends only on external factors, such as that constant or absent praise.
Of course, we chose to be a perfectionist. There are many ways to react to traumatic events or unobtainable expectations. We seek to be accepted socially to the point of forgetting that it is impossible to be loved by everybody.
Growing up in a home with very successful parents or siblings can cause individuals to seek to live up to what is required of them as family members. And it’s that perfection seems a pretty acceptable standard, right? Certainly. Today’s society has uplifted the value of perfection to limits unknown by our predecessors.
Being the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect lover, the perfect friend, the perfect daughter … And you can keep adding titles to the list in an infinite chain that will never end because you can never be too perfect. That is the paradox.
The perfectionism paradox
If you dedicate your life to reach impossible standards of perfection, what happens is that, in addition to spending a high bill regarding exhaustion and failed relationships, jobs and opportunities, you condemn yourself to loneliness. And you will tell me: impossible! Perfection is necessary, as it allows us to achieve desirable results. At work especially as you have to be impeccable, no one can doubt your professionalism.
Well, trying to be perfect goes hand in hand with being a controller and, the higher the number of details under observation, the higher the error probability. For a perfectionist to delegate and trust another is practically impossible. Getting a partner, a boss, a boyfriend or even a son that meets their standards is somewhat unlikely.
Accepting that we are human and that good results are as desirable as better results, becomes a real sacrifice of a personality built from ideas.
What characterizes a perfectionist and self-demanding person?
You can quickly recognize a perfectionist. Their self-discipline is inspiring. Self-demanding, meticulous and organized, they avoid mistakes at all costs. Efficient, hard-working, reliable and persevering, they are recognized as excellent professionals, students, and successful careers mainly in hierarchical structures. When they hold leadership positions, they are highly demanding and controlling.
On the other hand, they practice self-control, especially in the face of the emotions they experience. As if they were so threatening and confusing that they had to hide them and could never act spontaneously. They often behave in such a correct and formal way that they become distant, rigid and indecisive people, mainly when they cannot study all the alternatives in a situation.
All these characteristics mean that individuals with this personality style don’t handle well unforeseen and changing scenarios or those situations in which there are no concrete rules to follow. However, their disciplined nature allows them to be effective in contexts in which it’s important to be precise and meticulous.
Harder, better, faster, stronger:
In this way, a perfectionist can organize the best parties, be the best professional in their area, and have the best elasticity of the dance group they sign up to but, at the same time, have a hard time to grow within a changing organization, present difficulties to sustain healthy relationships over time or, simply, feel satisfied with their results.
In short, people with a perfectionist personality profile, let their most rational part leads themselves. The reason is their fuel and dominates their life at all levels. There is also an evil twin of perfectionism: Fear of failure. That feeling of overwhelming anguish that prevents us from trying new things as long as we don’t submit to the possible risk of failing.
Regular expectations, successful life’s:
Day to day many aspects don’t depend on us, things that are out of our hands. Therefore, on the emotional level, these people may seem cold and distant, given that the emotional interactions baffle them; sadly, they become unable to get carried away and enjoying life as it is.
It is essential to bear in mind that, although it may seem like a tongue twister, perfection is not always perfect, because, on many occasions on the contrary to what one may think, it entails many more inconveniences than advantages for our physical and mental health.
Abandon that state of perfection rigidity and bet to modify, even if in the least, our belief system, is something that is uphill for those who are very critical of themselves.
Reasoning approaches, making lists, joining a new hobby, starting psychological therapy, even enrolling in tarot lessons, can help you assimilate new perspectives. My advice is: try to give an opportunity to those new voices that will appear on the road.
The sooner you understand that you cannot be perfect in everything you do, that sometimes your point of view isn’t the most informed or valid, and that others opinions can also be exciting and intelligent, more people will get close to you and more challenges will appear on your path.
Little by little you will lose all the weight that perfection puts on your shoulders, you will experience the happiness of being alive, and you’ll be able to discover the vast imperfect world in which we live.