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In our fiercely competitive society, perfectionism sometimes becomes a badge of honor. We strive ourselves and our youth to be perfect, believing that such an approach provides an advantage over the competition.
The opposite is true. Perfectionism is a brutal way of living life. It is associated with depression and anxiety. Having no room for error is a demanding way of living life that ultimately stifles personal growth.
Are you a perfectionist? Here are 5 subtle signs to consider.
1. You refuse to get help
Perfectionists often find themselves too scattered and overwhelmed. However, they find it difficult to accept help because they don’t trust others to complete tasks to their high standard.
As an example, I have worked with people overwhelmed with myriad work and home responsibilities. However, they refused help with even basic housework, such as folding laundry or loading the dishwasher. Worse yet, they would refold clean clothes or reorganize the dishwasher if their partners hadn’t met their standards.
Instead of compulsively redoing completed tasks or refusing offers of help, take a moment to consider how someone’s offer of help can be beneficial. Maybe they clumsily put dirty dishes in the dishwasher or don’t fold clothes symmetrically. With so much on your plate, it’s in your best interest to accept the imperfections of someone else’s contribution and focus on other responsibilities rather than redoing a completed task.
2. You are hypercritical with yourself and with others.
Perfectionists tend to obsess over flaws. They are more likely to criticize a completed task rather than appreciate that the task has been completed.
The problem with being constantly critical is that it paralyzes others. They may walk cautiously around you for fear of being criticized. It is only a matter of time before they grow distant and abandon their efforts to help.
Recognize how perfectionism serves as a source of friction and conflict. Ask yourself if the pursuit of perfection is worth the strain it puts on your relationships.
3. Tasks take a long time to complete
Starting a project can be overwhelming when you feel the pressure to be perfect. This anxiety can keep you from starting a task because the hill feels like a mountain. Additionally, it can hamper creativity and slow down your progress while you’re working on a project.
Certainly there are situations where perfection is necessary. I want my pilot to be perfect when he flies an airplane. I also want my surgeon to be perfect when operating on me.
However, for the vast majority of cases, perfection is not necessary. You can achieve great results without being perfect. You can make a few mistakes on a test and still get an A or graduate with honors without a perfect 4.0 GPA. The same goes for parenting, trying to be healthy, getting your house in order, or just being yourself.
4. You have a hard time making decisions
Perfectionists struggle with decision making because they are looking for the perfect solution. They expect their decision to produce maximum results. The problem with this approach is that if their decision doesn’t meet their high expectations, they feel regretful, disappointed, and self-critical.
Keep in mind that the problems are inherently complex and a perfect solution may not currently exist. You don’t have a crystal ball that can predict the future. Instead of being paralyzed by the search for the perfect choice, make an informed decision that is a step in the right direction.
If your decision isn’t optimal, or if a better option comes along in the future, you can course-correct later.
5. You are constantly dissatisfied
Perfectionists notice imperfections, no matter how small. They may settle on a small patch of dry grass in a lush, well-trimmed lawn. It is difficult to be satisfied with such a critical perspective.
Accept the reality that perfection is an illusion. No experience is perfect. Have you ever gone on a vacation trip that was perfect? Vacations often come with flight delays, unexpected rainy weather, or someone getting sick and needing a trip to the local urgent care.
The same happens with people. No human being is perfect. We are all a mosaic of virtues and defects. Being imperfect is an essential part of our humanity.
Accepting your imperfections is a liberating experience that can help you shed the weight of having unrealistic expectations. Your imperfections are opportunities for growth that can lead to a more authentic and fulfilling life.