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Home > Medical Services > Behavioral Services > Educational Resources > The Perils of Perfectionism & What to Do About It
By Jenna Ladd, NCC, LMHC
Identifying as a “perfectionist” in contemporary U.S. society can be like a badge of honor, but there are negative effects of perfectionistic tendencies that deserve our attention. First, let’s clarify the definition of perfectionism: Perfectionism is defined as “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable” (Merriam-Webster). This is not to be confused with contentiousness or wishing to do one's work or duty well and thoroughly. Striving for excellence? Awesome. Striving for perfection? Not so much.
People who have more perfectionistic tendencies tend to
The tricky thing about perfectionism is that it can serve a person well for a time. Perfectionistic students are often praised for their tireless devotion to their studies; perfectionistic employees who work long hours might be promoted or idolized. However, the demands of personal and professional life will eventually exceed a person’s ability to cope and achieve “perfection.” This can cause the individual to experience symptoms of depression or an anxiety disorder.
If you’ve been nodding enthusiastically while reading about the characteristics of perfectionistic people above, you may be wondering what to do about it. Here are some strategies to consider:
Perfectionistic patterns are often established during childhood and adolescence, so it’s important to encourage more flexible thinking patterns and behaviors from a young age. Parents and trusted adults of budding perfectionists can:
Jenna Ladd,NCC, LMHC
Especially in the recent months, it is difficult for anyone to feel like they’ve got it all together. Now more than ever, compassion for ourselves and others is imperative for mental well-being. If you feel like your tendency to expect perfection from yourself and/or others is making it difficult for you to complete tasks or enjoy life, please contact Mercy Family Counseling and EAP at (319) 398-6575 to schedule an appointment with a professional counselor.