Perfectionism Harms

Perfectionism Harms

People wonder why so many people fail to thrive in modern times. One reason is we have widely accepted but inaccurate beliefs about many things that affect our well-being on a regular basis.

Our classes overturn a few dozen of these false premises. Today I’m writing about perfectionism. It is commonly accepted as a positive characteristic to be admired and developed, perfectionism is often praised.

It is true, there are some benefits that come from pessimistic tendencies. I’m just not sure they are worth the price the individual pays. It varies on an individual basis, and we have to look at the underlying reason the person attempts to achieve perfection to know whether it is harmful on an individual basis. If it is a critical task, for example, brain surgery, perfection is essential to task. The brain surgeon who has perfected her craft but can allow herself to not be perfect in other areas of life, whose perfection is dictated by the necessity for perfectionism, is far less likely to suffer the negative consequences of perfectionism. In fact, I would not describe such a person as a perfectionist.

Another brain surgeon, just as skilled, who also demands perfectionism from his children, spouse, home, attire, and public persona is at risk of the negative consequences of perfectionism. The pervasiveness of the tendencies indicates that the underlying reason for the characteristic is not healthy. This type of pervasive perfectionism causes persistent high stress on the body and mind of the individual.

One of the very common, but not well-known, risk factors for suicide is this sort of perfectionism.

“…high Persistence and Harm Avoidance are predisposing traits for burn-out in healthcare professionals who are often overly perfectionistic and compulsive, predisposing them to anxiety, depression, suicide and burn-out.” (Stoyanov and Cloninger)

The perfectionistic tendencies result in this person hiding their discomfort and angst. Often it is the type of suicide that surprises those closest to the individual. They hide their symptoms and then apply their desire for perfection to their attempt at suicide, which increases the death rate from those attempts.

This same type of perfectionism increases the risk of burnout.

Perfectionism is not a fixed personality trait. It’s not easy to change if you don’t have the key but with the key it is relatively simple to change. Many people simply believe that is how they are–an integral part of their personality–part of what makes them who they are. That is not true. It is a reflection of the fact that these tendencies develop at a young age, not of the immutability of the characteristic.

If you are a perfectionist who demands perfection in all areas of your life, your life is far more stressful than it should be and far more stressful than it has to be. That is a less than perfect life. We can help you relax and enjoy your life more without giving up the quality you demand of yourself in the areas where it is important. Any of our premier programs would help you and those you love enjoy your lives and one another more fully.


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