When working with clients who have a perfectionist streak, especially those who are professionals, I often have to tread lightly. Perfectionism in the workplace can work to their advantage. Precision and attention to detail are wonderful qualities, especially in a stressful job that demands them.
On the other hand, perfectionism can also be something of a double-edged sword. Even in the best hands, it poses a danger to the person who wields it. Perfectionists tend to burn bright, but they also burn fast. The same qualities that get them ahead also hold them back.
As a result, it’s important for people to understand the risks their perfectionism poses to their mental health.
What is Perfectionism?
Perfectionism actually stems from Anxiety, and counter-intuitively, it is frequently linked to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. Despite being high performers, their backgrounds cause them to feel abused, neglected, or missing control. Perfectionism is defined by a black-and-white worldview. Perfectionists either feel like they did a great job, or failed utterly. There is no middle ground.
What Risks Does Perfectionism Pose?
The drive for perfection comes with a laundry list of secondary impacts. Perfectionists can expect to see one or more of the following symptoms:
Often, addiction becomes a way of coping with the stress caused by perfectionism. A desire for perfection may lead someone to experiment or overindulge with drugs and alcohol.
A general fear of failure and rejection often influences the behavior of perfectionists. This can lead to crippling anxiety that prevents them from living their most authentic life.
The long hours a perfectionist puts in at work can lead them to flare out. No matter how much they love their company or their job, high stress positions take a toll—and it’s very important for perfectionists to learn their own limits and abide by them
This is often the result of feelings of shame, inadequacy, or being somehow ‘broken.’
Perfectionists often undervalue their work in relation to the work of others. Doing so leads to low self-esteem and feelings of shame or guilt. Judge your work objectively, with the same kindness you’d show others.
Unrealistic expectations related to the nature of a romantic relationship can pose a major problem, especially for new relationships. Perfectionists in a romantic relationship tend to look for intense always-on connections. They may expect their partner to share all their hobbies, spend large amounts of time together, and give up outside interests. Conversely, they may do this themselves.
Perfectionism can often lead to on-the-job drama because of how heavily perfectionists invest in their work. Perfectionists can be as hard on others as they are on themselves. In addition, they may bring a set of exacting expectations with them to a new job—becoming difficult or even disruptive if those expectations aren’t meant. They often feel like one of the hardest workers, and are shocked when they discover that high standards are rubbing their employers the wrong way.
Here are some helpful tips on how to recognize if you’re suffering from perfectionism:
- Does it feel catastrophic when you make a mistake?
- Do you put off tasks until the last minute to ensure you’re properly prepared?
- Are you able to let others take tasks off your plate?
- Does it make you uncomfortable when others compliment you?
- How frustrated are you when working with people who have poor attention to detail?
Consider your answers to these questions and what they might say about you.
As a therapist with a psychodynamic focus, I put a special emphasis on understanding how the past influences and impacts the present. If you’re interested in learning more about available options for managing your perfectionism, please don’t hesitate to reach out today to learn more about anxiety therapy. I believe strongly in helping my clients create tailored therapeutic solutions that work for them.