- POSTED ON: Jul 22, 2012


Perfectionists are those people who strain compulsively and unceasingly toward unobtainable goals.
Pressuring oneself to achieve such unrealistic goals inevitably sets the individual up for disappointment. Perfectionists tend to be harsh critics of themselves when they do not meet the standards they set for themselves.  Negative thinking surrounds perfectionism, in particular the "all-or-nothing" thinking in which a person believes that an achievement is either perfect or useless.

Perfectionism is:

* an all pervasive attitude that whatever you attempt in life must be done letter perfect with no deviation, mistakes, slip-ups or inconsistencies

* the irrational belief that you and/or your environment must be perfect

* a rigid, moralistic outlook that does not allow for humanism or imperfection

* the striving to be the best, to reach the ideal and to never make a mistake

* a habit developed from youth that keeps you constantly alert to the imperfections, failings, and weakness in yourself and others

* a level of consciousness that keeps you ever vigilant to any deviations from the norm, the guidelines or the way things are "supposed to be"

* the underlying motive present in the fear of failure and fear of rejection, i.e., if I am not perfect I will fail and/or I will be rejected by others

* a reason why you may be fearful of success, i.e., if I achieve my goal, will I be able to continue, maintain that level of achievement

* an inhibiting factor that keeps you from making a commitment to change habitual, unproductive behavior out of fear of not making the change "good enough"

* the belief that no matter what you attempt it is never "good enough" to meet your own or others' expectations

Irrational beliefs that contribute to perfectionism:

* Everything in life must be done to your level of perfection, which is often higher than anyone else's.

* It is unacceptable to make a mistake.

* If I have a failure or experience a set back in my efforts to change then I should give up.

* You must always reach the ideal no matter what.

* The ideal is what is real; unless I reach the ideal I am a failure.

* You are a loser if you cannot be perfect.

* It is what you achieve rather than who you are that is important.

* I have no value in life unless I am successful.

* There is no sense in trying to do something unless I can do it perfectly, e.g., "I don't attempt things I can't do well."

* There are so many roadblocks and pitfalls to keep me from succeeding. It is better just to give up and forget my goal.

* Unless I am "Number One," there is no sense in trying. Everyone knows what "Number Two" is. To win is the only acceptable goal.

* If you screw up in your efforts to achieve a goal, just give up. It must be too hard to achieve.

* You must always strive to reach the ideal in everything you do because it is in the achievement of the ideal that you give meaning to your life.

* Don't ever let anyone know what goal you're working on. That way they won't consider you a failure if you don't reach it.

* If you can't do it right the first time, why try to do it at all?

* There is only one way to reach a goal: the right way.

* It takes too much effort and energy to reach a goal. I save myself the aggravation and discouragement by not setting goals for myself.

* I'll never be able to change and grow the way I want to, so why try?

* I am a human being prone to error, frailty and imperfections; therefore, I won't be able to accomplish things in a perfect or ideal way. I'll just give up on achieving any of my goals or desires.

Rational behaviors needed to overcome perfectionism:

* accept self as a human being

* forgive self for mistakes or failings

* put self back on the wagon immediately after falling off

* accept that the ideal is only a guideline or goal to be worked toward, not to be achieved 100 percent

* set realistic and flexible time frames for the achievement of a goal

* develop a sense of patience and to reduce the need to "get it done yesterday"

* be easier on oneself; setting unrealistic or unreasonable goals or deadlines sets you up for failure

* recognize that the human condition is one of failings, weakness, deviations, imperfections and mistakes; it is acceptable to be human

* recognize that one's backsliding does not mean the end of the world; it is OK to pick oneself up and start all over again

* develop an ability to use "thought stopping" techniques whenever you find yourself mentally scolding yourself for not being "good enough"

* visualize reality as it will be for a human rather than for a super human

* learn to accept yourself the way you are; let go of the ideas of how you should be

* enjoy success and achievement with a healthy self-pride, and eliminate the need for self-deprecation or false humility

* learn to enjoy success without the need to second guess your ability to sustain the achievement

* reward yourself for your progress, to reinforce your efforts to change even when progress is slight or doesn't meet up to your idealistic expectations

* love yourself; to believe that you deserve good things

* to eliminate unrealistic expectations and the idea that you are infallible

* visualize yourself as "winning" even when it takes more energy, and more perseverance, than what you had planned

* let go of rigid, moralistic judgments of your performance and to develop an open, compassionate understanding for the hard times, obstacles and temptations

* be flexible in setting goals and be willing to reassess your plan from time to time to keep things realistic

* be open to the idea that you will be successful in your efforts to change, even if you are not "first," "the best," "the model," "the star pupil," "the exemplar" or "the finest"

* realize that the important thing is to be going in a positive direction

Steps to Overcome Perfectionism

Step 1: Identify your perfectionism.

Step 2: Identify a problematic behavioral pattern you want to change; then list the characteristic negative behavior traits of the pattern. For each of the negative characteristics list positive alternative behavior traits. For each of the new alternative behavior list your likelihood of achieving them 100 percent of the time. How many new behavior traits could you achieve 100 percent of the time?

Step 3: Once you have recognized that no change can be achieved 100 percent of the time, continue changing your problematic behavior patterns. If you continue to be hindered by perfectionism, return to Step 1 and begin again.

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Existing Comments:

On Jul 22, 2012 Alma wrote:
"Don't ever let anyone know what goal you're working on. That way they won't consider you a failure if you don't reach it." That is a profound statement and so true! It was 3 weeks before my family knew that I quit smoking. I attempted it twice before and SOMEONE stated how disappointed they were that I FAILED. I did not consider it a failure. It was a test of my strength like a baby falling down a few times before "standing strong". It also was lessons in recognizing the pitfalls and avoiding them. I sat with all my family (all of us lived on the same street) as they smoked and no person recognized that I was not smoking. It was realized when one of them came to my house to get a cigarette and I stated I had NONE. For three weeks, I dug through the trash to get butts and ashes to return to the ashtray so I would not be found out TOO SOON to "stand strong".

On Jul 22, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Alma, That's a good idea and a great teaching experience.

On Jul 23, 2012 TexArk wrote:
Thanks for posting this. I needed a reminder as I start off another week of making choices.

On Jul 23, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             TexArk, Thanks for your comment. Our Choices are the key. I think that most people have, at least some, perfectionistic tendencies, and the more rigid our dieting attitudes are, the harder it is for us to adopt a successful dieting lifestyle.

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