Mental Health Moments: What Is Perfectionism?

⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten

I have categorized myself as a perfectionist for most of my life. I was the little girl who organized my Bonne Bell Lip Smackers by color, wanted to get good grades at every stage of my academic career and people pleased my way through life. I knew my tendencies but only began to define them in my 20s. In my late 20s, my own version Saturn Return happened. I woke up one day wanting to learn more about who I was and how I could be a better version of myself. (This is thanks to my ever-supportive husband who encouraged me to always be my truest self and delve head-on into my perfectionism.)

I began with Australia’s Centre for Clinical Interventions’ “Perfectionism in Perspective” modules. This was one of the most helpful beginnings to my perfectionism journey. Not only did this resource fully define perfectionism in ways I could identify with, but these modules gave me more self-esteem and willpower to make the changes in my life.

My hope is that it will help you, too! Some future Mental Health Moments blog posts will center on each module and how using them could help you combat perfectionism and also embrace it.

What is Perfectionism?

The Centre for Clinical Interventions defines perfectionism in these three parts:

  1. “The relentless striving for extremely high standards (for yourself and/or others) that are personally demanding, in the context of the individual. (Typically, to an outsider the standards are considered to be unreasonable given the circumstances.) We will be referring to this throughout this Information Pack as ‘unrelenting standards.'

  2. Judging your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such unrelenting standards.

  3. Experiencing negative consequences of setting such demanding standards, yet continuing to go for them despite the huge cost to you.”

Being a perfectionist isn’t just about being perfect. It’s often debilitating to your internal ideas of self-worth and attached to your overall well-being. You can obsess about one part of your life or about several. For me, my perfectionism lies in several aspects of my life.

Perfectionistic behaviors include the following:

  • Decision Making

  • Reassurance Seeking

  • Excessive Organizing and List Making

  • Giving Up Too Soon

  • Procrastination

  • Not Knowing When To Stop

  • Attempts to Change Other People

  • Overcompensating

  • Correcting

  • Checking

  • Hoarding

  • Failure to Delegate

  • Slowness

  • Avoidance

Pros and Cons of Perfectionism

Like with most things, everything in moderation. Not everything about perfectionism is bad. Perfectionists achieve their goals, often at a young age. They put in the time, effort and skills necessary to accomplish those goals. Perfectionists like us like to do things well and feel satisfied with a job well done. The flip side of that is thinking you have no free time, being inflexible with yourself and others and the general feeling of failure. Those components are unrelenting high standards. If you have perfectionism, this term will become part of your daily vernacular. Achievement addiction is a real thing, too.

How can you figure out if you’re a perfectionist and begin to get the help you need? Start with the first module today!

Copyright © MMXVIII Hourglass Media, LLC

Kaylin R. Staten is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer. She owns Hourglass Media, a consulting company based in Huntington, WV. 

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