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Are You a Perfectionist? Here’s Why You Might Be Unhappy and Underperforming

By September 11, 2023No Comments

Perfectionism, a trait many of us possess to varying degrees, can be both a boon and a bane. While it drives us to achieve high standards, it can also lead to feelings of inadequacy and underperformance. This article explores the complexities of perfectionism, its impact on happiness and performance, and offers insights on how to navigate this challenging trait.Understanding Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high-performance standards. It’s often accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. Sounds familiar? You might be a perfectionist.

The Spectrum of Perfectionism

Perfectionism isn’t an all-or-nothing trait. It exists on a spectrum, with varying degrees of intensity. Some people may exhibit mild perfectionistic tendencies, while others may experience extreme forms, impacting their mental health and overall well-being.

The Dark Side of Perfectionism

While perfectionism can drive us to achieve high standards, it also has a darker side, often leading to unhappiness and underperformance.

Perfectionism and Unhappiness

Perfectionists often find it hard to feel content with their achievements. They constantly strive for more, creating a perpetual state of dissatisfaction. This can lead to feelings of unhappiness, as they never feel “good enough”.

Perfectionism and Underperformance

Contrary to popular belief, perfectionism doesn’t always lead to high performance. Perfectionists are often their own worst critics, setting impossibly high standards for themselves. When they don’t meet these standards, they can experience significant distress, leading to burnout and underperformance.

The Three Types of Perfectionism

Perfectionism can manifest in three different forms: self-oriented, socially prescribed, and other-oriented perfectionism. Understanding these types can help us navigate our perfectionistic tendencies more effectively.

Self-Oriented Perfectionism

This form of perfectionism involves setting excessively high standards for oneself and striving to meet them. If you’re a self-oriented perfectionist, you might often push yourself beyond your limits, potentially leading to burnout.

Socially Prescribed Perfectionism

This form of perfectionism involves perceiving that others have high expectations of you. It’s the belief that others are constantly judging you and waiting for you to slip up. This perceived pressure can lead to significant distress and anxiety.

Other-Oriented Perfectionism

This form of perfectionism involves setting high standards for others and being critical when they don’t meet these standards. If you’re an other-oriented perfectionist, you might find it hard to accept others’ imperfections, potentially leading to strained relationships.

The Impact of Perfectionism on Performance

While we might assume that perfectionism leads to high performance, research suggests otherwise. Perfectionism can often lead to procrastination and avoidance of challenges, negatively impacting performance.

The Paradox of Perfectionism and Performance

Perfectionists often work hard, but unsustainably so. They push themselves beyond their comfort zones, often leading to burnout. Furthermore, they tend to struggle when faced with challenges, as the fear of failing and the potential shame associated with it can lead to avoidance behaviors. This can significantly hinder their performance.

Navigating Perfectionism

While perfectionism can be challenging, it’s possible to navigate it effectively. Here are some strategies to cope with perfectionism.

Awareness and Acceptance

The first step in dealing with perfectionism is awareness. Acknowledge your perfectionistic tendencies and accept them as a part of who you are. This acceptance can help reduce feelings of shame and guilt associated with perceived inadequacies.

Meeting the World Where It Is

Rather than striving for an unattainable ideal, try to meet the world where it is. Accept that setbacks and failures are a part of life and learn to see them as opportunities for growth rather than signs of inadequacy.

Challenging Perfectionism

Take small steps out of your comfort zone to challenge your perfectionistic tendencies. Whether it’s taking up a new hobby, presenting at a work meeting, or simply trying something new, these small steps can help break the cycle of perfectionism.


Building and utilizing a spiritual toolbox is a powerful way to navigate life’s ups and downs. It provides resources and practices to help manage emotions, maintain inner peace, and foster personal growth. Remember, your spiritual toolbox is deeply personal and unique to you. Fill it with tools that resonate with you and serve your journey towards self-improvement and personal growth.

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