You Might Be A Perfectionist If ...


Some perfectionists are the proud, card carrying type. They believe that being hard on themselves and others makes them and others better. And better is what they are driven to become. And probably, even if they don’t say it, is the belief that this is the right way to live and progress. And people who don’t rigorously follow the same approach in life are misguided and wimpy and less successful than they could be. They might be right about that last one. Depending on how you define successful. How many happy perfectionists do you know?

Then there’s the second group; those who are burdened by their perfectionism and wish that they could change. They are aware that they are critical about everything and that they are rarely ever satisfied. They are driven to get things done and have measurable results to confirm that they are achieving. But, if they get twelve things done, they believe they should have accomplished 14 or 20. And if they make a mistake – well, they can’t let it go so well. And here’s the kicker. They often think this way about others also. This group has come to realize that their expectations are extremely high. But they can’t just adjust them. In fact, they feel to do so would be like giving in, or losing or confirming that they really aren’t good enough. So, basically you have perfectionists who are happy in their unhappiness and perfectionists who are unhappy in their unhappiness.

Ten signs of the Perfectionist

1.       A strong performance-based orientation and really high expectations in performance for self and others. Good is not good enough and unacceptable, very good is usually minimally acceptable, and a really super job is fair.

2.       They have a strongly negative or pessimistic belief system and outlook.

3.       They are often analytical and intellectual.

4.        They can be high achievers, although many would not give themselves fair credit.

5.       They have a great deal of difficulty with patience, forgiveness and offering grace.

6.       A low or fragile self esteem, that rides on the waves of their performance, meaning only when I am able to meet my standards and not make mistakes, I feel okay.

7.       High stress, and cycles of great effort and burnout.

8.       Raised in a performance-based environment which lacked experiences of unconditional acceptance.

9.       Rigidity in beliefs, values and opinions.

10.   Marked by relational difficulties, such as unresolved conflicts, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and people pulling away from them. They may feel misunderstood by others and feel lonely.

If you’re still on the fence about yourself or someone else, ask this clincher; how are mistakes handled that they or you make? If they or you tend to beat yourself up and shame yourself with harsh recriminations and promises to be better – then I would say you have your answer.

There is hope for the perfectionist! I’ve got a great program for you and if you can follow it just right you will overcome your perfectionism. I’m kidding about the program part, but there is hope. Next time, I’ll bring some help for breaking out of perfectionism.


Matt W.  Sandford, LMHC

Licensed Mental Health Counselor


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