Perfectionism - Healthy or Compulsive Disorder

Understanding Perfectionism

We live in an imperfect world, yet many people are obsessed with making their lives absolutely perfect and would be considered perfectionist. However, if we don't allow ourselves to be imperfect no matter what challenge we take on, the end result will almost always be disappointment. One of the definitions of perfectionism is ‘a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable’.

Perfectionism is a self-defeating behavior, which can cause depression, poor self-esteem, relationship problems and even suicide. It also interferes in marital and personal relationships. Being a perfectionist causes your behavior to be very rigid and judgmental toward yourself and others. People are not born as perfectionists, as it is a learned behavior, and a perfectionist can become a success slave.

The Perfection of Nature

Flicker. Thank you Tom
Flicker. Thank you Tom

Perfectionism in Child

Source

Perfectionism in Children Increasing

In our society perfectionism is increasing and the experts think it's because there's a lot of pressure put on children to achieve due to parents seeking status from the performance of their children. The problem is the pressure to achieve high standards is perceived by children as criticism of their mistakes. It can also be a form of parental control, which is seen more frequently in this global economy.

According to Paul Hewitt, PhD, a scientist who has completed more than 20 years of research and his colleagues, see no healthy motivation for perfectionism. They believe that is not necessary to be perfect in any way. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health problems are often correlated with perfectionism. There have been several new studies completed recently that prove this theory.

View of Perfectionism

Flicker
Flicker

Treatment for OCD

There is help for the OCD patient using cognitive behavior techniques. Learning to restructure thinking can assist an individual to learn to objectively evaluate actions and consequences. This cognitive therapy can also help an individual examine the beliefs they hold about themselves and those they care about.

Types of Perfectionsim Including OCD

There are at two types of perfectionism accepted by most scientists. Adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism each has high personal standards and failing to meet the standards is more stressful for the adaptive perfectionists.

Adaptive healthy perfectionism is characterized by holding high standards for oneself, as well as others. This includes being persistent in the face of adversity and being conscientious. Usually this perfectionism is goal directed behavior with good organizational skills. Some examples might include an exceptional athlete or a famous neurosurgeon.

On the other hand, mal-adaptive perfectionism is being preoccupied with past mistakes; having fears concerning future mistakes; having constant doubts as to whether you're doing something correctly; and also having high expectations of others. These individuals have an excessive preoccupation with control. Quite often this unhealthy need for perfectionism is strongly linked to OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is noticeable in an individual who has a very strong need to get things done exactly right. For these individuals it's not uncommon to believe making mistakes will result in a serious feared outcome, such as the loss of a loved one. The individual with OCD can often be so uncertain they have not done things correctly, they will compulsively check to make sure the doors are locked or the stove is turned off, over and over again. The result for this individual is they feel even worse, with less self-confidence then if they were doing nothing. Unhealthy OCD perfectionism perpetuates obsessions as well. These individuals may focus on bizarre dangerous thoughts continually.

Types of Perfectionism

Self-oriented perfectionists have a strong motivation to attain perfection and avoid failure, thus adhering to strict standards. Their self-evaluation is very stringent. They derive a sense of pleasure from their work, which enhances their self-esteem and motivation to succeed. The result is a sense of control over their environment. Oriented action individuals often set unrealistic goals for their family members and coworkers. In addition, they stringently evaluate the performance of these people.

Socially prescribed perfectionists other people hold unrealistic expectations for them and that they can't live up to those expectations. They are acutely aware of any external pressure, and they believe that others evaluate them in a critical manner. These perfectionists are similar to neurotic perfectionist as they do not derive pleasure from their efforts and view their work as inferior. They report feeling great pressure from others to complete their tasks. They have a greater sense of fear of failure and want to avoid harassment.

However, the key word here is obsession. It is important to remember that striving for excellence is a healthy approach to challenges. In moderation, it can lead to a fulfilling professional and personal life. It is when we expect constant perfection and leave no room for human error that we risk ourselves, as well as, other people emotionally.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Dr. Tolin explains

Summary

It is worthwhile to recognize the difference between grasping for perfection and healthy striving toward a goal. In order to turn loose of perfectionism tendencies it is not an all or nothing undertaking. The difference is setting realistic goals based on your own wants and needs that are achievable. They are your goals, not the goals of others. This way you will enjoy the process of achievement and not just the end result.

We would not have perfectionism if we did not have the expectations and feedback from others that plant those seeds. If you are a perfectionist it can be very helpful to trace your life back to childhood and journal those instances which set you on the course of perfectionism. It is a time that you can forgive parents, if that's the problem as for the most part they wanted the best for you and didn't realize that their actions were destructive. Live each day and fullness without worrying about tomorrow or reliving yesterday.

© 2011 Pamela Oglesby

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Comments 37 comments

carriethomson profile image

carriethomson 4 years ago from United Kingdom

nice hub pamella! imperfect itself says I M Perfect. so theres perfection in imperfection and obsessing about perfection is unnecessary. although importance of trying to achieve things near to perfection cannot be dismissed!

-carrie

the photograph of the pink flower up there is just perfect with all its imperfections!! beautiful.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Very interesting hub. I found the section relating to children of interest as when I was a child I was always criticized for bringing home a report card with A-'s and B's. My stepmother always said to me Why not A's. This is just one example. Makes me wonder if that is part of what lead to my depression.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

Most of us have some of these perfectionist tendencies, I do but I know other with the disorder. Nice hub Pamela.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Excellent treatment of perfectionism, Pamela. I found that working with my executive coaching clients, when they would admit to procrastination, it was often a result of a desire for perfection. This must be perfect, they would think, so I need to rework it again. Ergo, procrastination.

BTW, your new avatar is BEAUTIFUL!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

carriethompson, I appreciate and agree with your comments. I think most people like the idea of being close to perfect at least in their decisions.

Susan, That quite possibly is something planted when you were young that could have led to depression. I was criticized if the grades weren't good enough also and became somewhat of a perfectionist, worrying about the house being clean all the time, etc. Thank goodness I have changed and don't worry about much. Thanks for your comments.

Cardisa, I agree. Thank you for your comments.

drbj, Thank you for sharing your experience. I appreciate the comment on my new avatar. The other picture was 4 or 5 years old and not very clear.


frugalfamily profile image

frugalfamily 4 years ago from Houston, TX

This is a perfect hub for the topic:) Seriously you have good information here, thanks for sharing.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

frugalfamily, I'm glad you like the hub and I appreciate your comments.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Wow, I really liked this. I learned a lot. Your research is excellent and written in a way that's understandable. Thank you for sharing..


stars439 profile image

stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Thank you for sharing this very enlightening hub about perfectionism. It is very educational, and I never thought of perfection being such a liability if exceeded beyond limits. God Bless You Dear Heart, and Merry Christmas.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Always exploring, I'm glad you found this hub useful and I appreciate your comments.

Stars, I am glad you like this hub and thank you so much for your comments. God bless you also and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.


Hendrika profile image

Hendrika 4 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

There is another result perfectionism can have. It is the case in my life. Because I cannot live up to my own high standards I have given up completely. I do not even try to do anything well anymore and simply give up before I even try because I know I will not be able to do it to my own high standards. It is easier to not even try!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon

Ah yes, the fine line between OCD and perfectionism. I can identify and it has always been a struggle for me to not be perfect. I think there is a lot of validity in the fact that as a child I was always criticized for not being better - when in fact I was pretty great at everything I did.

But....if there is hope for me, there is hope for anyone~~ I learned many decades ago that imperfection is OKAY and tried to instill that in my children as well. It only matters that you enjoy life and try your best...and that you don't hurt anyone in the process~

Great info and interesting subject!!

If I don't see you on the hubs, have a beautiful holiday season!


debbie roberts profile image

debbie roberts 4 years ago from Greece

It is scary the needless pressures we can put on ourselves and others. I agree that perfectionism can be instilled in us by our parents, but it is so important to try to break the cycle if you recognise it in yourself as it can be so destructive. Encouraging people/children to do the best they can and asking no more of them is going to produce happier, well adjusted people/children in the long run.

A good, informative hub.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Hendrika, I am sorry to hear you feel that way. We all make mistakes but you might feel better if you don't aim so high. I hope no one is telling you that you can't do anything well. Hopelessness is an awful way to feel and you might consider trying some counseling to help you feel better about yourself. I wish you the best.

Audry, Thank you for sharing your experience. I agree with you completely. I have changed in the same way also and don't try to make things perfect anymore. I appreciate your comments. Merry Christmas to you and your family also.

debbie roberts, I agree that it is so important to break the cycle if you are a perfectionist and I think you are right about children also. Thank you for your comments.


tarajeyaram profile image

tarajeyaram 4 years ago from Wonderland

When we set ourselves to an ideal that can never be fully achieved; we are bound to be disappointed. We should set realistic goals that are attainable. We will be a lot more motivated this way. I sometimes try to nit pick too much and loose essence of the big picture. We definitely live in an imperfect world. Imperfection around us and in people show us vulnerabilities. And there is something beautiful about people opening up to their mistakes and their imperfections. Its part of life and our relationship. Thank you sharing such an insighful article. Great Hub.


kellymom1970 profile image

kellymom1970 4 years ago

pamela, Very good! As always with your hubs. I was just thinking about this the other day, so funny that you wrote this hub. Vote up!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

tarajeyaram, I agree that setting realistic goals is the only smart course of action. Thank you so much for your comments.

kellymom, I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

tarajeyaram, I agree that setting realistic goals is the only smart course of action. Thank you so much for your comments.

kellymom, I appreciate your comments.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Guilty! Good Hub.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Will, Thanks for the confession and the comment.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Hmmm--good stuff for some honest self-examination. I look forward to reading this more thoroughly. I'll have to come back earlier in the day, but it looks like some honest people commenting. Great hubs initiate great comments--it will be interesting to follow them.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

RTalloni, Thank you so much for your comments and I hope to see some more when you've read the hub again.


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 4 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

My favorite question for a perfectionist is 'how do you live with yourself?'

I'm usually ready to run though when I ask it.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Fitnezz Jim, I think it is a tough life, so you ask a good question. Thanks for your comments.


susan54 profile image

susan54 4 years ago

Pamela, Vote up! My friend, you nailed it with this one so true. Happy holidays to you.


katyzzz profile image

katyzzz 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Nice hub Pamela, as usual, I think it is important that these things are explained and you have done that very well.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

susan, Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season.

katyzzz, I appreciate your comments very much.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 years ago

Very interesting and useful piece of writing. My younger daughter was very perfectionistic as a child. If she didn't like something she did, she ripped it up and tried again. Thankfully, she mellowed and grew into a very successful person. Up, interesting useful, perfect and awesome!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

BPOP, It is nice your daughter mellowed, as many don't and I'm glad to hear she is successful. Thank you for the huge amount of praise!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, I agree that perfectionism can be so close to OCD, that sounds like my brother, I don't like even going into his house as he is so tidy and clean, not just normally but obsessively, it looks like he has just moved in, but he's been there three years. he has to pick up a tiny bit of fluff off of the floor if he spots it, last week I wanted to eat some chocolate round there, I had to eat it over the sink! he started off being overly tidy, now its ocd, spot on with your article, thanks nell


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Nell, I hope your brother recognizes this is a pattern and it would be good for him to take it easier. Thanks so much for your comments.


gchicnotes 4 years ago

As a perfectionist, I very much relate to your hub. I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to my creative works. Thankfully, I usually find a means to where I am happy and don't feel like a failure. Maybe I am not an extreme case. Great information here. Voted up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

gchinotes, Maybe you are a perfectionist with your creative works but not everything in your life. Thanks so much for your comments.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

As one who comes from perfectionism on both sides of the family - this is a wonderful hub and I hope perfectionists out there take heed and read this. It took many years as an adult to undo all the harm perfectionist parents heaped on me. I have survived and thrived, but I understand the harm perfectionism does to the human soul and psyche.

This is a very relevant and wise hub and I enjoyed reading this.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

suzettenaples, I am glad you found this hub helpful and thank you for sharing your experience and for your comments.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

You've shed light on a very important topic Pamela. Striving for excellence is something that many people encourage, but they don't realize when they go overboard and expect perfection. When we internalize those messages, it can cause chaos in our lives. Voted up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Millionaire Tips, I appreciate and agree with your comments completely.

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