Perfectionism

Topics: Psychotherapy, Self-esteem, Psychoanalysis Pages: 7 (1060 words) Published: March 30, 2014
ARE WE SETTING
OURSELVES UP FOR
A FALL?
Mbali Xolo
If you believe that you
have to be the best at
everything you do, you
may be setting yourself up
for failure.

Nowadays, it’s not so difficult
to get caught up in the pursuit of
unhealthy perfectionism. We
stress when we invite friends to
our home because it’s not big
enough or neat enough or it
doesn’t look like the cover of a
decor magazine. On the other
hand, the dinner we cook isn’t
‘MasterChef’ standard. When it
comes to our appearance, we’re
never thin enough, tall enough,
pretty enough or good looking
enough. These characteristics
are often associated with
perfectionism.
Perfectionism is often mistaken
for ‘being perfect’ or doing
something ‘perfectly’. However,
there’s a fine line between
having aspirations and having
aspirations but criticizing
yourself along the way.

WHAT IS PERFECTIONISM?
Dr. Brené Brown, a licensed
American social worker, defines
perfectionism as a “cognitive
behavioural process, a way of
thinking that says this: If I look
perfect, do it perfect, work
perfect and live perfect, I can
avoid or minimize shame, blame
and judgement.”
Perfectionists aim for
unobtainable goals, and
measure their self-worth by how

much gets done and what is
accomplished. They pressure
themselves to achieve
unrealistic goals therefore
setting themselves up for
disappointment. They tend to be
harsh critics of themselves
when they fail to meet their
standards. This could then lead
to anxiety and low self-esteem.
Take a married couple for
example, John and JaVae, who
were guests on Dr. Phil’s Show
a few years back. John is a
doctor and JaVae is a stay-athome mom with a beautiful
home and two adorable
daughters. They seem to have it
all; but behind the ‘perfect’
image are two people who are
terrified of showing themselves
to the world.
John can’t bear the thought of
not being perfect. He is more
concerned about what people
think about him and whether
they would like him or not. On
the other hand, JaVae’s mother
had some ownership in JaVae’s
perfectionism. At an early age,
her mother expected JaVae to
look immaculate and perfect.
JaVae has applied her early
childhood behaviour to her adult
life; she hides behind makeup
all the time to cover up what she
sees as ‘imperfections’. To her
family and friends, she appears
confident when in reality, she’s
quite self-conscious.
So how do you know if you’re an
extreme perfectionist or not?
Perfectionists are characterized
by their all-or-nothing attitude,
“Anything less than an A is
embarrassing!”. They feel the
need to be the perfect student;
top of the class - anything less

than that is a fail. They have a
very hard time accepting and
learning from their failures.
When perfectionists don’t reach
their goals, they then try to build
their self-esteem from the
approval of others therefore
becoming even more vulnerable
to others’ opinions. They also
tend to criticize themselves but
it doesn’t end there; they are
also overly critical of others and
this can make close
relationships extremely difficult.

”Anything less than an A is
embarrassing”
Source:heartofthematteronline.c
om

Anything less than
an A is
embarrassing!”
PERFECTIONISM’S ROOTS
So why are some people
extreme perfectionists? It’s
partly due to the environment
we grew up in. We can see this
in JaVae’s early life in which her
mother expected her to look to
perfect all the time.
People learn early in life that
they are valued because of how
much they’ve accomplished or
achieved. As a result, they may
learn to value themselves only
when they receive other
people’s approval. Therefore
their self-esteem may become
solely based on external
standards. This leaves people
vulnerable and excessively
sensitive to the opinions and
criticism of others. In attempting
to protect themselves from such
criticism, they may decide that

being perfect is the...
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