I might be a perfectionist.

Whilst this might sound like I’m bragging, the reality is quite the opposite. I’ve been wondering if perfectionism is a good or a bad thing.

The answer may depend on how it impacts your life and whether you can use it to your advantage.

If you’re able to harness this trait, you can achieve amazing results,
but in many ways, striving for perfection can lead to problems.

People who want everything to be done in a certain way are often referred to as being ‘a bit OCD’, but perfectionism isn’t a ‘disorder’ it’s regarded by clinicians as a ‘trait’.

That said, perfectionism doesn’t allow for a lot of wiggle-room, and
those who have it are often driven to behave in ways that can appear
to others to be obsessive.

Business owners with this tendency may find it hard to delegate
because they believe they’re the only one who knows how a thing
should be done correctly. Having unrealistic expectations of others
and the resultant disappointment can be an aspect of perfectionism
behaviour, but it’s not the only one.

Perfectionism can manifest itself in many ways, and there are, in fact
three recognised forms, which are often combined into varying
degrees:

  • Self-orientated perfectionism is where we expect too much of
    ourselves.
  • Other-orientated perfectionism is where we expect too much
    of others.
  • While socially prescribed perfectionism is where we try to
    make ourselves appear perfect for other people.

All three, when applied or adopted in moderation, can lead to
positive outcomes.

Self-orientated perfectionists can create high levels of personal achievement; being other-orientated can motivate children and instil belief in staff to go beyond what they thought
possible, while seeking and gaining the respect of others can
promote the application of higher personal standards.

But driven to excess, they can also promote behaviour that has us
constantly comparing ourselves to others, bullying or indulging in
excessive people-pleasing, all of which will create decidedly negative
outcomes.

A slightly less dramatic trait, though equally limiting, is how striving for the clearly unattainable prevents things from being finished; perfection is always just out of reach.

Every great artist tries to create perfection, but at some point, they must put down the brush and say, ‘It’s done’.

Those who don’t are never heard of.

So, the goal is always unattainable, but as the poet Robert Browning
wrote:

‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?’

In the end, I don’t suppose there’s much any of us can do about
having unrealistically high expectations of ourselves and others-apart
perhaps through being aware we have them and catching ourselves
when we start seriously overreaching in some way.

Giving myself and those around me the room to be less
than perfect might be the characteristic I should really be
trying to perfect.