Perfectionism is tearing me apart

Hello Mark,

This might sound a bit weird but I'm a perfectionist and not in a good way. My parents are both successful people (they're university professors) and I am their only child. I went to a really competitive private high school and they put lots of pressure on me to get the best marks. At university it was the same. I used to get so nervous about getting test results back I would get anxiety attacks, but fortunately I haven't had one in years.

I have become a perfectionist, I think it's because of my upbringing. I sometimes can't finish tasks (or won't) because they're just not right. I'm a manager at work and I've been told I micromanage and try to do everything myself, but I don't feel I can trust others to do a task properly. I know they'll slack off or miss something. I find myself acting the way my parents did whenever I got something wrong when I was a child and I don't want to be like them.

How can I just relax and let things not be '100% right'? I would like to, but just the thought fills me with dread.


Little Miss Perfect

This question was submitted by 'Little Miss Perfect'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hello Little Miss Perfect, well actually it doesn't sound weird to me at all. I think perfectionism can be adaptive and useful, even essential when it is applied as a tool. So we need the person or people responsible for checking safety on the aircraft we are about to board into the clouds to be 'perfectionistic' in their approach and aiming for perfection when creating anything new can give us the best shot at doing the best we can. This leads me to the inevitable 'but' which is this: Perfectionism is an imperfect approach to life when applied where it doesn't belong which is in so many areas.

People try to apply perfectionism to relationships or exert total control over uncontrollables like other people's moods or a sporting performance. They feel they should control totally rather than influence where they can then relax and let reality take its course. Maladaptive or over applied perfectionism , as you have found, starts to do the very opposite of that which genuine high achievers do, which is that it stops us even attempting so the life becomes squeezed of opportunity and enjoyment.

So what drives the kind of perfectionism you describe? As you said we can be trained to be perfectionistic by our 'nothing is ever good enough' pasts, or by our own desire to succeed.

Pay attention to your thought processess. A mixture of fear of not doing well and hope of 'being perfect' drive all or nothing thinking - you know, the sort of thinking that goes "if something is not perfect it is a total failure". This kind of over simplified thinking tortures those who use it.

I suggest you read: 'How to Overcome Perfectionism in Everyday Ways' article and use the Overcome Perfectionism download every day for a week until you notice yourself freed up to start enjoying life again. Paradoxically true success comes after maladaptive perfectionism has been brought under control.

Here's to your happiness, 

watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - December 26th, 2013 in

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