Sunday, 14 February 2010


 I remember when I was growing up I would stand in front of the mirror and muse : ''my being is lined with elements of excellence."

It is not a bad thing to strive for excellence. But when one becomes obsessed with being perfect, an ugly character  is likely to be formed. As Robert Hillyer'perfectionism is a dangerous state of mind in an imperfect world.' puts it

According to Wikipedia , perfectionism is a belief that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable.
The following are traits of a perfectionist:
  • PERFECT ORIENTED: A perfectionist as we have already defined accepts nothing less than perfect. Everything has to be perfect or it is not good enough. A perfectionist would not be happy with a 90% grade , it ought to be 100% or it is not good enough. Almost perfect is as good as failure to a perfectionist.  
  • FEAR OF FAILURE: Due to wanting everything perfect, most perfectionist cannot handle failure. Do you end up morose and angry at yourself when you make the slightest mistake? Do you spend days or more hiding from people because you messed up? Are you hard on yourself when you fail? You probably are a perfectionist if you answered yes to all of these.
  • AVOID RISKS: Perfectionists as we have just learned are afraid of failing, and this usually causes them to develop cold feet where risks are involved. To a perfectionist, a risk may expose them to failure or loss. A perfectionist tries to figure out everything before hand. This in itself is not bad. But in life, many things involve a risk that you may have to take. Not all ends can be figured out from the beginning. Risk is an enjoyable part of life. It gives life a buzz. However being a perfectionist can rob one of achievements that come through  risk taking, and also cause one to procrastinate, being afraid of taking a step that will lead to a not perfect result.

  • CRITICAL: Do you somehow find yourself delicately picking on the minutest mistakes and short comings of others? Do you only hear the mistakes  in the sentences of others? Or do you notice everything that is wrong with someone's dressing or home decoration? Are you prone to criticising others, and do you continually correct others, intolerant of anything below perfection? It is a good thing to like things done properly but where we cannot tolerate a little imperfection , more so the imperfect results of others who are trying their best, then we pass as perfectionists. It must be our kind of 'A' performance or it is unacceptable. If you are so set in your ways and believe in specific ways in which things should be done, for example, you believe an egg should be fried in a certain way, and do not accept or tolerate any other method, you exhibit traits of a perfectionist. Perfectionists end up winding everyone up with their critical attitude.

  • DEFENSIVE: Talking about a perfectionist  having a chip on his/her shoulder is an understatement. Perfectionists begrudge criticism - constructive or not! Criticism to a perfectionist is a direct statement of being below par. A constructive criticism could depress a perfectionist. Though susceptible to criticising others, perfectionist are ironically unable to deal with being criticised, as they are unable to sift out the good and productive element of constructive criticism. To them it's a mark of weakness and failure, and failure tends to upset them.
  • RESULT ORIENTED : Achieving perfect results is all that matters to a perfectionist. This obsession can weigh so mightily on a perfectionist that he ends up feeling low and depressed, especially when he reckons he is under performing. A perfectionist is too hard on himself, and is driven by the fear of not perfectly reaching the desired result of his goal. Instead of enjoying the process of setting a goal and working towards it, a perfectionist frets all the way through. Overworking himself, overly critical of own achievements and unable to stand mistakes and errors made. Being a perfectionist can be an epitome of misery. Do you go through life seeing only your goals and the results you must attain, and in the process miss out on good relations and the very beauty of life? Are you unable to handle negative results and unmet goals? Are you so self critical that it has rendered you feeling low about yourself? Check it! You may be a perfectionist.

SETS UNREALISTIC GOALS : Most perfectionists in a quest to be extra ordinary set for themselves unattainable goals, and get frustrated when they are unable to reach them. As the saying goes  -the first pancake usually spoils - depicting clumsy results that usually accompany first attempts. However, to a perfectionist it has to be right, and perfectly right even at the first attempt. Mistakes are not allowed in a perfectionist's world, which is a world of denial.

  • SHUNS HELP: To the perfectionist, asking for help is a sign of weakness and of being out of control. To appear perfect, help from others is shunned even to one's detriment.

Having read the above, kindly assess yourself and find out if the cap of a perfectionist fits you. If it does, then do find below tips on how to overcome a perfectionist attitude:

   GO EASY ON YOURSELF : The critical voice that resounds in your mind must not be entertained. From now onwards, learn to laugh at yourself - laugh at your mistakes. Take up challenges to improve past performances. Psych yourself up to improve yourself, taking a day at a time. Enjoying each day's achievements and failures, allowing every brand new day to teach you how to create a better tomorrow.

  •  BE POSITIVE: All your life you have probably honed the skill of being negative and critical of yourself and others. This ought to be altered, and believe me it may not be easy, but it is possible. Make a conscious effort to notice the good in yourself and in others. Practice positive affirmations such as ' I can,' 'they can,' he can,'and ' she can.' Try to acknowledge your accomplishments and give yourself a pat on the back for your achievements, no matter how little.
  •   FOCUS ON THE PROCESS NOT THE GOAL: Reaching a set goal is a process that can be enjoyed. When you set a goal, instead of focusing on only the target or goal, rather take a chance at enjoying each step that leads to the goal. Enjoy what you are doing. If you do not enjoy what you do, find something that you enjoy and do that. My mum used to tell me that - If you don't get what you like, like what you get. This can be true where there are no other immediate alternatives. Simply put, learn to enjoy what you do, if you do that, your results will automatically be good. Take mini assessments of yourself from time to time to see if you are on track, but remember not to be over critical of yourself.
  • ACCEPT MISTAKES :Mistakes only teach us how not to do something. Life is a learning ground and mistakes must be accommodated. To want everything perfect all the time is not realistic in an ideal world. So crawl out of denial and be welcomed into the real world where mistakes are a part of it, and of which every human being is guilty of.
  • ASK FOR HELP: No man is an island, and no man has or knows it all. Do not hesitate to ask for help when you need it. It is not a sign of weakness. When something is beyond your ken, delegate to someone that can handle it better. Every human being has strengths and weaknesses where skill is concerned. There is a piece of the puzzle where you fit in, stay in place!

  • LEARN TO HANDLE CRITICISM: Constructive criticism has the ability to make us better individuals. They equip us with tips on how to improve ourselves, enabling us to perform better the next time round. Do not act so defensive when you are criticised. Take it in your stride, learn what you can from it, and move on. Sometimes certain people criticise heartlessly, such criticism is destructive in nature. Do not let this get to you, shrug it off . If you want to talk about it, be bold and let the one know that you are willing to learn from your mistakes, and that they don't need to be harsh. When you develop this approach towards criticism, you will tend to use it to your advantage.
Perfectionism can be pervasive and permeate every aspect of our lives, but with a positive attitude and by learning to appreciate all our efforts, we can gradually eradicate its ugly root in our lives and embrace the life of an achiever minus the excesses.

Written by Gina Bello



This is absolutely a great piece. Keep such stuff coming, Gina.

Thanks Kwamena.


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