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Just Perfect: 5 Signs You Might Be A Chronic Perfectionist

Just Perfect: 5 Signs You Might Be A Chronic Perfectionist

Perfectionism is a new kind of disease that is afflicting millions of people–you always have to get things right, take control and take on the lion’s share of work so that you can feel that you’re controlling the path of your own destiny, bending the universe to your very will.

This, which you know, is impossible. Believe me, I’ve tried.

I’m a recovering perfectionist, having been a high achiever in high school and college. The fact that my life isn’t exactly going the way I wanted has proven to be a bit of a balm and has helped loosen up (some of) my obsessive, controlling ways.
If you think you might be suffering from some chronic perfectionism, have a look at these symptoms and see if you might need to step back from worshiping at the pedestal of perfection.

1. You always have to be in control.

The first sign of perfectionism is the need to always be in control. If you’re working on a school or college project, you’re always the one who takes charge, dictates the pace and delegates tasks to everyone else.

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The only problem is that even delegating can leave you antsy and worried that things just aren’t being completed to your personal standards. When group members bring in their work, you rework it and edit it a bit (or a lot) and then make sure that it all makes sense to you. You take on the lion’s share of work just to make sure you always stay in control of the project.

It’s not that you don’t trust other people–it’s just that you trust yourself more, and you know deep down that you’ll be able to get it all done and sorted perfectly.

2. Nothing is ever good enough.

Another sign of true perfectionism is that nothing ever seems to be good enough. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s something serious or something trivial; nothing can ever seem to be just ‘done’ enough.

If you’ve written something, you’ll always want to tweak a word or a phrase or change the font until it becomes perfect (at which point you’ve run over deadline). If you’ve drawn something, you’ll keep adding or changing details about it, until the picture no longer resembles what you intended.

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The idea of nothing ever being good enough comes from a deep anxiety of missing out on something that will somehow stop it from being the best representation of yourself–that one word that could have made your essay, or the little detail that would have made your drawing outshine the others.

3. You have to do everything yourself.

This has already been mentioned in an above point but it really is worth noting–being a perfectionist means that you generally have to do everything yourself.

It doesn’t always have to be literally doing everything by yourself–you’re not superhuman after all–but you can be damn sure that you’ll be mentally supervising and creating a checklist of stuff to check up on and correct the second you have a bit of free time.

The art of puttering becomes a corrective institution–tucking things away a little neater so that they’re just so, adjusting something when someone leaves the room so that they don’t feel offended that you changed what they did right in front of them, or even doing the smallest of small adjustments that only you will notice.

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4. You can’t let go of the little things.

The little things bug the hell out of you–and we’re not talking about things like a relative mispronouncing a word, or not getting the last muffin in the lunch line.

We’re talking things like finding yourself baking and the recipe goes slightly wrong. It’s not wrong enough to affect it much, but immediately you’re deflated and considering half a dozen ways to either correct the situation at once, or to trash it all and start again. After all, if it isn’t absolutely perfect, what’s the point? A missing crayon, a lost sock or a cracked plate later, and you’re tearing your hair out and considering a mid-afternoon drink.

Not being able to let go of the little things can haunt your every waking moment and can even cause some pretty random flashbacks to times in the past when you messed up or didn’t do as well as you could. That time you split your jeans at school or got a B instead of your usual A? Yep, that’ll haunt you.

5. The idea of ‘getting things perfect’ is driving you insane.

Finally, the key symptom of being a perfectionist is when you need to get things right the first time and every attempt after drives you absolutely up the wall. It’s exhausting and unfair, and you wish you could turn it off, but you can’t.

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This absolutely impossible need to be the perfect person all the time is–while kind of admirable–also hugely detrimental to your overall health.

To-do lists, pie charts, self-help and self-improvement books and the glossy sheen of the media are like drug fixes to any hugely-invested perfectionist. We crave the idea of one day attaining this perfect, permanent state of competence and unhurried serenity, which is a lovely thought, but one that is about as pragmatic as a teapot made from chocolate.

As someone who once saw the Stepford Wives as role models for their perfect lives, I can all but admit that being a perfectionist sucks. It is time-draining and actually burns up more time, energy and effort than just letting go and letting some things just fall where they may. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of being in control, but there comes a point where the strong grip of control becomes a noose of constraint.

I’m working on easing off on my perfectionist ways, and while they’ll have to grasp my to-do list out of my cold, dead hands, I’m starting to let things go and loosen up a little bit. After all, life isn’t perfect, but everyone else seems to be doing okay. And, right now at least, that’s good enough for me.

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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