“You are such a perfectionist,” may sound like a compliment. But is it, really? In working on any project, it would be nice to have a tinge of perfectionism to ensure an excellent result. However, too large a dose of perfectionism may become more of a liability than an asset.
According to Flett and Hewitt, perfectionism can be directed inwardly or outwardly. Inward perfectionists tend to ruminate on the slightest idea of imperfection of themselves. Outward perfectionists are directed at others, which explains why they are tough on others and become frustrated of others’ less-than-perfect stance.
Perfectionism can also be directed on all domains of life, which is “generalized,” or directed on specific domains of life or “situational” perfectionism.
In addition, perfectionism can be categorized into primary and secondary, in the former its pursuit of perfection is the beginning and the end and in the latter is a means to an end. Whichever type it is, perfectionism pivots around approval, reflection and control. Researchers Million and Davis called it a conscientious compulsive variant of OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder).
In short, perfectionism deals with an all-or-nothing state of mind, in which a failure is always fatal and total, never lightweight, never negotiable, nor partial. A perfectionist sees the world as either going his or her way or not going anywhere. A perfectionist always doubts and is prone to bouts of depression. They scrutinize themselves and others; they are never satisfied with whatever they have because when things go awry, they would start feeling completely inadequate and lost. And things will go awry, naturally, because it is just the law of nature to change and everything comes in cycles.
Present Perfect, a book by psychotherapist Pavel Somov, offers a new way in looking at perfectionism. The old notion of perfectionism involves rejection of reality and self-rejection, while in the new concept of perfection, it involves acceptance of reality and self-acceptance. Somov further recommends for perfectionists to cultivate these seven habits: making own meaning, noticing ordinary perfection, being in the present moment, making conscious choices, accepting self, accepting uncertainty, forgiving and performing compassionate acts.
Perfectionism may sound like a virtue, but it may not be so, unless you turn it into acceptance of reality and self-acceptance instead of rejection of reality and self-rejection.
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Last reviewed: 5 Apr 2012