Nerdify Reviews: 5 Signs of Perfectionism (& how to overcome it)

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Nerdify reviews - perfectionism
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Here is another blog post dedicated to Nerdify reviews of the most interesting and important stuff. This time we want you to meet Chelsey – one of our top Nerds. Hear her out.

Hello, I’m Chelsey. I decided to contribute into Nerdify Reviews topic to share my experience and help people who suffer from the phenomenon of “unhealthy perfectionism”. I see myself as a perfectionist, albeit an unhealthy one. I mentally criticize people (specifically new ones) who I think do not meet my standards or expectations.  

I’m afraid of failure because I always want to be “perfect”. In school, I exert as much effort as I can in my exams. When the results are not in my favor, I would internally beat myself up for not getting the grade I desire. I tend to be overly cautious of taking risks, possibly rooted from my fear of failure. If I stay in my comfort zone, then nothing will happen.

I conducted a short research about perfectionism, and I’d say that (to an extent) I inhibit one of the main signs of a perfectionist. I’m not surprised; perfectionism does have harmful effects on my mental health.

What is Perfectionism?

Perfect means “… being entirely without fault or defect.” Now, if we look at Merriam-Webster’s definition of perfectionism, it means “… to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.”

In psychology, perfectionism in the psychological field means “… striving for flawlessness and setting high-performance standards….”

If they do not meet such standards, it would take a huge toll on their self-esteem and self-worth. On the same vein, unattained goals and standards would contribute to disappointment and unhappiness. Possibly, even depression.

Why is it a Toxic Trait? 

People usually regard perfectionism as a positive trait. I’ve read articles that it is a cliché answer to the job question, “what is your weakness?”

Yes, it can be your weakness. But did you know perfectionism is more than that? Are you aware that it is toxic to your mental health and detrimental to your growth? For the curious soul, here are the reasons why:

You can’t bring yourself to commit mistakes or experience failure, for they make you believe you are incompetent. You have to be ready to face failure in order to be successful.

You don’t celebrate with pure joy and happiness. Instead, your success and achievements are met with scorn and self-criticism. Negative self-talk is what harms your happiness. You are too focused on the negative aspect of things.

You are afraid of being judgedYou like other people to see you as a perfect human being (when in fact, you’re not). Perhaps you are hesitant in stating your flaws, as it may ruin your “perfect” self. There’s internal pressure involved too.

Apparently, these reasons are also correlated with the signs of perfectionism. Let us move on.

Five Signs of Perfectionism

1. Setting high (unrealistic) goals and standards

There’s nothing bad in establishing standards and not settling for anything less. It’s not even bad to have high goals. However, creating unrealistic standards and goals is unhealthy because they have to be realistic. Further, you are pressured to accomplish your goal no matter what. You may even have the tendency to expect that everyone has to abide by your… demanding and ultra-high standards. As said by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist. perfectionists are critical of people and expect them to be perfect as well.

2. Fear of failure/Making mistakes and staying within your comfort zone

You set a goal for yourself, but you are afraid of failure. In that regard, you are more inclined to focus on the end results (without fail) rather than enjoying the thrill and experience of achieving your goal.  On the other hand, you refuse to move out of your “shell” because you don’t want to disappoint yourself (or anyone). Hence, you lean towards tasks you can do successfully—100% guaranteed. This brings more harm than good to your mental health and personal growth.

3. Trust issues

According to Elizabeth Lombardo Ph.D., perfectionists rarely delegate tasks because they think that their peers cannot do the job correctly. In practical settings, you don’t trust your colleagues enough if you want to assign them work. In the end, you do everything by yourself.

4. Low self-esteem and unhappiness

Let’s say you are angry with yourself because you failed to reach your goals. You immediately conclude you are inadequate and flawed. It can leave you a feeling of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Kendra Cherry states that fear of failure is a sign of low self-esteem.

5. Negative self-talk and too critical

Perfectionists have the habit of finding faults in their achievements— no matter how small that is. You loathe yourself because you are not good enough. Therefore, your mind ends up being clouded with negative thoughts. You are also too critical of other people. Like I said, perfectionists highly expect their peers to be of “high standard” and “perfect”. This may push (or intimidate) people away. Unfortunately, it can lead to loneliness.

Overcoming Perfectionism: What Can You Do?

1. Accept the realities of life

Let’s do a reality check—you have to acknowledge that everyone, including you, makes mistakes in life. We fail in life— tests, interviews, work, assignments, and etc. At the end of the day, they push us to do better and improve ourselves.  Just like everyone else, you have flaws. Don’t expect people to be exactly like you. Every individual is different. 2

2. Take on the challenge

Risk-taking is hard, as we do not know what is beyond the abyss of the unknown. If you are eyeing an activity that you’ve always wanted to try, go on ahead… don’t be afraid of failure and mistakes. Let go, and experience the “challenge” in all its glory.

3. Be open to learning

We have to reskill to cater to the demands of the 21st century. Skills are also a plus point in the workforce. When you are learning, always remember that everyone starts out as a noob or a newbie.

4. Set realistic goals and standards

Be grounded in reality! It’s fine to have high standards, but they have to be realistic. Use your standards as a guide or a framework, rather as an absolute ideal.  Also, make your goals feasible (Remember SMART?). Again, don’t let failure bring you down. Failure does not mean that you are garbage, and it does not define who you are. As said by Oscar the Grouch, “just because you’re trash doesn’t mean you can’t do great things. It is called garbage can, not garbage cannot.”

Don’t forget to reward yourself if you achieved something big or small. Bring nothing but good vibes ☺

5. Learn to trust and delegate tasks

This is a leap of fate you must take. If you are overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to ask your colleague for assistance. You have to learn to understand and work with your peers. Bear in mind that you can’t do everything by yourself all the time. 

After reading about perfectionism, I realized that I need to work on myself. I’d say that it was an eye-opening experience. Perfectionism is embedded in my psyche, and it will be a challenge to completely get rid of it. I hope this article has made you reflect on yourself.

How about you? Do you consider yourself as a perfectionist?

xoxo, Chelsey

More Nerdify reviews to come, stay tuned!