The perfectionist side of me is terribly upset that I promised we’d start this series on Monday, and then failed to deliver on my promise. Even though I failed to deliver because I was spending quality time with the people I love most. Seriously, this kind of stuff produces a lot of anxiety in me. Like muscle tension across the shoulders anxiety! Dude.
Further evidence that I need this series as much as you do. Probably more.
What is perfectionism?
“Perfectionism is the need to be – or to appear – perfect. Perfectionists are persistent, detailed and organized high achievers. They vary in their behaviors; some strive to conceal their imperfections, others attempt to project an image of perfection. But all have in common extremely high standards for themselves or for others. Perfectionism is not officially recognized as a psychiatric disorder. However extreme forms of perfectionism should be considered an illness similar to narcissism, obsessive compulsiveness, dependent-personality disorder and other personality disorders because of their links to distress and dysfunction,” according to Gordon Flett, professor of psychology at York University in Toronto.
I know that isn’t the most spiritual definition, but I like it and can totally make my own spiritual applications. For one, it recognizes the fact that not all perfectionists are alike or manifest their perfectionism in the same way. (God created us as unique and distinct individuals). And for two, it acknowledges the link between extreme perfectionism and distress and dysfunction. (Perfectionism is a spiritual weight that directly affects the freedom promised to us in the Word of God).
Professor Flett is the mastermind behind The Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, a tool intended for use by psychologists to help their clients understand their perfectionist behavior and how it relates to mental and physical health problems, relationship problems and achievement difficulties. It’s available online for $140, which is crazy expensive, but you get 25 copies of the test for you and all your perfectionist friends. How about we all chip in and order it together? I’m kidding.
The questionnaire identifies three types of perfectionists:
1. self oriented (expect perfection of themselves)
2. other-oriented (demand perfection from others)
3. socially prescribed perfectionists (think others expect perfection from them)
And explains how perfectionists reveal themselves in three distinct ways:
1. A self-promotion style that involves attempts to impress others by bragging or showing off. This type is easy to spot as they often irritate other people. (Funny, I wouldn’t consider this to be a sign of perfectionism, but what do I know?)
2. Shunning situations in which they might display their imperfection. This is common even among young children.
3. A tendency to keep problems to oneself and can include an inability to admit failure to others.
And finally, according to Dr. Flett, here are The Top 10 Signs that Your a Perfectionist:
-You cannot stop thinking about a mistake that you made.
-You are intensely competitive and cannot stand doing worse than others.
-You either want to do something ‘just right’ or not at all.
-You demand perfection from other people.
-You will not ask for help if asking can be perceived as a flaw or weakness.
-You will persist at a task long after others have quit.
-You are a fault-finder who must correct other people when they are wrong.
-You are highly aware of other people’s demands and expectations.
-You are very self-conscious about making mistakes in front of others.
-You noticed the error in the title of this list.
Conclusion: Do you see yourself in there? Yeah, me neither. *a-hem*. Without completing the questionnaire, I am diagnosing myself as a socially prescribed perfectionist. I am highly aware of other people’s expectations of me—or at least what I perceive their expectations to be. Sometimes these people are the real people in my life–my husband, my children, my friends, my extended family. But other times, I just have what I call “a committee of accusers” in my head, telling me to do better and try harder. I definitely tend to keep problems to myself. Not because I’m afraid of appearing weak, but more because I don’t want to be a burden to others. I’m not sure how that all ties together, but I’m excited to explore it further.
And a little side note: just have to know how CRAZY DIFFICULT it was for me as a perfectionist-writer-person to knowingly put a grammatical error in my post. Seriously, it drove me crazy to think that you might assume I don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re.” Like I said, further evidence I need this series as much as you do. Probably more.
So, based on this, are you a perfectionist? What kind?