Perfectionism is a real problem in relationships. It can eat away and irrevocably damage marriages, friendships, and family relationships. Holding yourself up to a perfect standard always leaves you wanting because nobody’s perfect. We all like to find faults in others but tend to miss our own flaws.
What is Perfectionism
Perfectionism is irrational the desire to be perfect in everything you do. Those who suffer from perfectionism set their standards incredibly high. Rarely does anyone or anything live up to such high standards? Perfectionism may have positive qualities that drive people to do their best, but overall the negative aspects of perfectionism outweigh the positive.
Perfectionism is rewarded and encouraged in many of our young people. Think of students who always strive to be the absolute best and perfect in everything they do both academically and socially. These individuals are put on a pedestal.
And while these qualities are sure to be admired, when taken to the extreme they’re damaging to the individual exhibiting the perfectionism traits and can lead to a lifetime of failing to measure up to expectations.
Perfectionism Can Hurt
Perfectionists are under constant pressure to meet the extremely high standards they set for themselves. This is damaging because no one can ever live up to such a high standard. When the person cannot meet or live up to their standards a perfectionist will experience a serious mental disconnect.
Perfectionism can lead to depression. Perfectionists also tend to become socially isolated. The constant cycle of not living up to one’s perfect aspirations ends up driving them into a dark mental hole. Perfectionism can also lead to other serious mental health disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. Anxiety disorders as well as eating disorders are also common amongst perfectionists.
Perfectionism Kills Relationships
Perfectionism can literally ruin your relationship with others around them. When one or both of the individuals in the relationship have extremely unrealistic expectations people can become greatly dissatisfied. The reason is fundamentally simple, if you believe that a person is capable of being perfect, you will be letdown 100% of the time.
In fact, the only thing you can be 100% sure of is that somebody will eventually screw up and let you down. It’s how we react in those moments when mistakes happen, that define the relationship. Letting the iron fist of judgment rain down on the other person when they make a mistake is just driving another nail in the coffin. Eventually, that relationship will die.
Nobody wants to be around a perfectionist for very long. Think about it, how much fun is it to hang out with somebody you’re always disappointing? It’s not fun at all! Spouses, kids, coworkers, and friends will all eventually find other avenues to travel so they can escape your judgmental eyes.
It’s one thing to treat a peer or spouse poorly through the eyes and judgments of a perfectionist, but what happens when we do this to our children? Children aren’t mentally capable of comprehending why they keep disappointing a parent when all they do is try their best. If their best is never good enough aren’t they learning the same perfectionist pattern as their parent? Children going through these tough perfectionist induced trials can become mentally troubled and need professional counseling.
First, ask yourself why you must live up to a perfect standard? What is the motivation behind your perfectionist feelings? Recognizing that it’s a problem and understanding the need to get help is the first step in overcoming perfectionism.
Accept the fact that you are human and will inevitably and unavoidably make mistakes, no matter how infrequent and minor your shortcomings might seem. When you can recognize this you must be able to forgive yourself for making mistakes. The same goes for those people around you, they’re human and will make mistakes and therefore deserve forgiveness as well.
A practical way to avoid falling short and letting yourself down is by setting realistic goals. Setting goals that push us out of our comfort zones but aren’t so lofty that they’re completely impossible to achieve is a good start for perfectionists.
Finally, reward yourself when you make progress. When you set goals to overcome your perfectionist tendencies and achieve them you deserve a reward. Even when you don’t “perfectly” live up to the standard which you want you still deserve a reward to help reinforce the new positive character traits you are trying to build. This helps to reprogram the brain to get away from the negative mental processes which it has developed around perfectionist tendencies.
Change is possible but it won’t be easy. There are many more ways to overcome perfectionism which are not discussed here. It may require learning new strategies from a coach or mental health professional that works well with your personality.