Those who don’t understand it think we are just obnoxious, cocky or full of ourselves. Or they think that to be a perfectionist you have to actually always be perfect – always be actually reaching those unattainable goals that you set for yourself.
But these things are not true.
To my knowledge there are two types of perfectionism – a type that is positive and makes you strive for more, without neglecting your mental health and the more harmful type. The “bad” perfectionist, as I shall term it, sets unattainable goals, never feels good enough. Often suffers from anxiety and is at risk of burning out and developing chronic illnesses.
We are put of from starting or continuing things because we feel as though we are not good enough and so they are not worth it. We set unattainable goals and have to be the best.
A first isn’t good enough. You need marks in the 80s and 90s just because other people can. Doing your job well isn’t enough. You always feel inadequate and have to be perfect.
It’s actually soul destroying, mentally and physically damaging.
As a perfectionist it is very difficult to switch off, take time out. To not reply to that email instantly. It’s difficult to not feel like you must be constantly working – to the extent that even the most basic forms of self care get neglected.
An important thing to note here is that perfectionism doesn’t manifest the same way. It’s not necessarily being perfectly neat and tidy, valedictorian, involved in 1001 projects. People can be perfectionists in different aspects of life or it may just manifest differently in different aspects of a persons life.
It’s also fair to say that perfectionism is prevalent more so in some professions than others. It’s fair to say many barristers are perfectionists, many surgeons, many professional ballet dancers.
And, awareness needs to be raised. It can be a huge problem for some. It needs to be seen as such and the warning signs need to be identified.