How do I know if I am a perfectionist?

Karen R Koenig

If you’re a perfectionist - and my hunch is that most of you sport this label - you probably know it, but for any of you who aren’t quite certain, here are the telltale signs. Doing something slapdash is a no-no; you can’t leave well enough alone; you think mediocrity is a cardinal sin; you believe that if something isn’t completely right, it must be completely wrong; people are always telling you to slow down and take it easy; you fear that others won’t do as good a job as you do and find delegating as painful as having a tooth extracted; you’re driven by fear of failure and of making mistakes; you don’t distinguish between behaviors you’d like to do exceptionally well and those you can afford to do half-assed because of time, energy, skill, talent, other commitments, resources, etc.

Okay, now, raise your hand if you recognize yourself. Oh, I see some of you out there with both hands raised. And a few of you have taken off your shoes and are waving your feet as well. In case there are still a handful of you who aren’t sure if you’re a perfectionist, let me explain what perfectionism is not. It isn’t wanting to do certain things to the best of your ability. It’s not having dreams and goals toward which you work feverishly. Nor is it a desire to excel and reach the top. Perfectionism means feeling an intense, driving inner (often unconscious) pressure to do everything right or well no matter whether you harm yourself in the process. The operant words here are “pressure,” “everything,” and “harm yourself.” Perfectionism is part obsession - your mind sinks its teeth into desire and won’t let it go - and part compulsion - your body then runs off to take action to put desire into play.

Christine Carter, PhD
Health Education
Perfectionism is a form of unhappiness that makes you feel like nothing is ever good enough, that you'll never feel satisfied. In this video, sociologist Christine Carter, PhD, explains how to spot signs of perfectionism and how to address it. 

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