What Does Perfectionism Really Mean?

Many people use the word “perfectionism” to describe someone who likes things to be done the right way. Perfectionists are seen as people who take charge, and who pay attention to detail. 

Depending on how you look at the word, it can either be used as a term of encouragement or a character flaw. It all depends on how far the attitudes of perfection are taken. 

What does that mean? 

Let’s take a closer look at perfectionism, what it looks like, and when it can be either a good thing or a bad thing. 

What Is Perfectionism? 

Aside from someone liking things done “just so,” perfectionism is a personality style that reflects someone’s desire for things to be done without flaw. 

On the surface, that might sound like a good thing. After all, it’s never a bad idea to do your best and to hold high standards for yourself. 

Unfortunately, perfectionism often takes things one step further. Perfectionists are often unsatisfied with “best efforts.” Rather, they want pure perfection from themselves and others. When those intrusive thoughts start to take over everything they do, it can lead to a lack of fulfillment and contribute to issues like anxiety. 

What Are Examples of Perfectionism?

Again, it’s never a bad thing to have high expectations. However, there’s a big difference between high standards and impossible ones. Perfectionists often set impossibly high standards in nearly every area of their lives. 

Most people think of the workplace, but that’s just one example. Someone who is truly a perfectionist might have impossible expectations when it comes to their weight, their hair, how they dress, what they eat, and everything in between. Spending so much time trying to “perfect” everything can actually make their lives more difficult. For example, someone might be frequently late to work because they spend too much time trying to find the perfect outfit or make sure no hair is out of place. 

What Are the Risks of Being a Perfectionist? 

No one is perfect. Trying to hold yourself to unrealistic standards of perfection will often leave you feeling inadequate. You’ll start to be unhappy with yourself and your life. Unfortunately, that can lead to anxiety, depression, and might eventually make you feel hopeless. 

You might stop seeing your purpose, which will impact your professional life and your personal relationships. 

You’re also more likely to experience burnout quickly if you focus on everything being perfect. Because it’s an impossible task, you’ll essentially work yourself to the point of exhaustion, but never find the “success” you’re striving for. That can take a toll on your mental and physical health. 

Can Perfectionism Ever Be a Good Thing?

The psychology of perfectionism is highly complex. When it’s taken to extremes, you can easily see the negative effects someone with a perfectionist mindset can deal with. That’s why it’s so important to understand the difference between true perfectionism and simply striving to do your best. 

The idea of perfectionism can be a good thing if it gives you the motivation you need to set high standards and boost your confidence. It can even be good in a leadership role for motivating your employees or your team to do their best, as well. 

However, if your standards are impossible for anyone to reach — including yourself — it can create a toxic work environment and a variety of mental health issues. 

If anyone has ever called you a perfectionist or you consider yourself to be one, think about what that really means. Are your expectations actually helping, or are they hindering your quality of life? If your idea of perfection is unattainable, it might be time to reach out for help, so you can bring your expectations back to reality. 

Make an Appointment

If your idea of perfection is unattainable, it might be time to reach out for help, so you can bring your expectations back to reality.