What Causes Perfectionism?

Given the choice, I am sure we would all choose to improve. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best version of yourself. However, there is a very thin line that separates wanting to be better and being a complete perfectionist. 

There are many contributing factors that cause someone to develop a strong case of perfectionism and it looks a little different for everyone that has it. If you are looking to learn more about perfectionism, its causes, and how to grow past it, then you have come to the right place. Keep reading to learn more. 

What is perfectionism? 

You have likely heard the terms perfectionist or perfectionism get thrown around from time to time. Students, athletes, and employees can all be called a perfectionist. But what is the true definition of perfectionism? 

Simply put, perfectionism is the drive to look, feel, appear, and hopefully be completely perfect. Perfectionists will dedicate all of their time toward perfecting themself or even a task they are working on, like an essay. 

Generally, people revere perfectionism as a positive trait. However, perfectionism has its drawbacks. By concentrating on perfection, something that is usually untenable, you lose sight of the big picture. There are things much more important in life than perfection. 

Where does it come from? 

Perfectionism can come from a variety of places. Both internal and external factors can cause someone to develop the perfectionist personality trait. Usually, a combination of factors mingle together to make a person develop perfectionism. 

Some of the most common contributing causes to perfectionism include: 

  • Cultural expectations
  • Fear of judgment or failure 
  • Very critical parents or those with high-expectations
  • Excessive praise for your accomplishments

Other mental health concerns can also cause traits of perfectionism. Anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder are two examples of conditions that can cause perfectionism. Having both or one of these mental health concerns puts you at a higher likelihood of developing perfectionism. 

Noticing the signs

Now that you understand the causes of perfectionism, you can begin to teach yourself to recognize the signs of perfectionism. Before reading through the associated traits, I want to remind you that perfectionism looks different in everyone. 

With this in mind, some of the most common signs of perfectionism are: 

  • Black or white thinking: Perfectionists normally practice all-or-nothing thinking. You either complete the task perfectly or their actions are a failure. 
  • Unrealistically high standards: While setting high goals is good for you, setting unrealistic standards sets you up for failure. I do not want to encourage you to not meet your potential, but rather aim for something within your grasp. Start small and you can go further. 
  • Only focusing on the end goal: By only caring about the result of your actions, you forget to enjoy the journey. This causes you to lose out on so many beautiful moments throughout life. 

How to ditch perfectionist tendencies

Moving past these perfectionist tendencies will take time and effort. Changing your mindset and way of thinking is not something that will happen overnight. However, with some hard work and challenging your thoughts, I promise that you can begin to move past your perfectionism. 

Begin by acknowledging your victories, even and especially the small ones. By recognizing and celebrating the little things, you can begin to appreciate the journey rather than just the end result. Additionally, start working to reframe your thoughts to be positive rather than negative. This will change your whole mindset. 

Of course, a trained mental health professional is a great resource to use if you are looking to kick your perfectionism to the curb. Seeking therapy is a sign of strength, not weakness. I am more than happy to help you start down the path toward overall stronger mental health. Feel free to schedule an appointment today to get started with anxiety counseling.