In today’s day and age it can be challenging not to be a perfectionist. Societal pressures stress the importance of being the best and standing out from the crowd. Striving for excellence and pushing oneself is a highly valuable attribute, however, the unrelenting need for perfection can often lead to undesirable outcomes such as emotional distress, burnout, or avoidance due to fear of failure.
Labeling perfectionism as bad is often counterproductive in the therapy process. A more helpful approach is understanding that the client values top quality work, and to collaboratively and accurately assess how their high standards are currently positively and negatively impacting their life. The therapy goal is to help the person continue to strive for excellence but to do so in a more manageable manner.
Below is a brief comparison looking at some of the differences between a healthy versus unhealthy approach toward perfectionism.
Strive for excellence
The process may have some stress but is overall enjoyable
Fear of failure may be present but motivates and provides positive energy
Able to accept defeat/failures
Strive for perfection
The process is very stressful
Fear of failure is overwhelming and drains one’s energy
Very difficult time accepting defeat/failures