Perfectionism – encouraging excellence or self-limiting
Being perfectionistic can be a key part of pursuing creative excellence and achievement, but in some forms or at some levels it can be self-limiting or even emotionally destructive.
“If I engage in perfectionism, I am abusing myself.” Ashley Judd
“I’m a maniacal perfectionist. And if I weren’t, I wouldn’t have this company.” Martha Stewart
Ashley Judd participated in a treatment program years ago to overcome lifelong emotional problems including depression, isolation and co-dependent relationships.
And, an article noted, “Judd learned that she was using sleep to deal with uncomfortable feelings and that her habit of wiping down plastic surfaces on planes and hotels was all about control.”
“Now I try to remind myself that if I engage in perfectionism, I am abusing myself.”
[Photo is from her Facebook page.]
She may have been describing OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder – more than a “traditional” sort of perfectionism, but there are other ways in which it can be destructive – see “Hiding behind a perfectionist mask” below.
Three types of perfectionists
In his article on the subject, Benedict Carey of The New York Times explores how there are, in fact, problems resulting from some kinds of striving for perfection.
“Self-oriented strivers who struggle to live up to their high standards and appear to be at risk of self-critical depression; outwardly focused zealots who expect perfection from others, often ruining relationships; and those desperate to live up to an ideal they’re convinced others expect of them, a risk factor for suicidal thinking and eating disorders.”
Some perfectionism is natural
Carey quotes Gordon L. Flett, a psychology professor at York University:
“It’s natural for people to want to be perfect in a few things, say in their job – being a good editor or surgeon depends on not making mistakes. It’s when it generalizes to other areas of life, home life, appearance, hobbies, that you begin to see real problems.”
The article continues, “Unlike people given psychiatric labels, however, perfectionists neither battle stigma nor consider themselves to be somehow dysfunctional.
“On the contrary, said Alice Provost, an employee assistance counselor at the University of California, Davis, who recently ran group therapy for staff members struggling with perfectionist impulses.
‘They’re very proud of it,’ she said. ‘And the culture highly values and reinforces their attitudes.’”
Continued in Unhappy? Self-Critical? Maybe You’re Just a Perfectionist, By Benedict Carey.
Image from book: Perfecting Ourselves To Death: The Pursuit Of Excellence And The Perils Of Perfectionism, by Richard Winter.
Creative and high ability people and the drive to attain perfection
“I’m a maniacal perfectionist. And if I weren’t, I wouldn’t have this company. It’s the best rap!”
Martha Stewart added, “I have proven that being a perfectionist can be profitable and admirable when creating content across the board: in television, books, newspapers, radio, videos…
“All that content is impeccable.”
From my article Perfectionism and Creative Thinking.
Linda Silverman, PhD, director of the Gifted Child Development Center, has commented about this kind of pursuing excellence:
“A cherished goal for only a small portion of the population, excellence is the hard-won prize of those whose zeal and dedication are fueled by the drive to attain perfection, as they envision it.”
Psychologist Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D. declares that “Perfectionism has taken a bum rap:
“Were it not for perfectionism, we would be in short supply of all those myriad human activities we deem extraordinary, excellent, outstanding or great in quality.”
Hiding behind a perfectionist mask
Recovering perfectionist…my ass! Maria Pascucci at TEDxBuffaloWomen
Maria Pascucci is a Certified Professional Life Coach who “empowers women to transform their sensitivity into an asset.”
In a post on her site, she notes:
“We either start overachieving in one area to compensate for the sensitivity flaw that we think we have, or we completely shut down, buy into our own story that we’re too sensitive and not good enough, so therefore we’re not going to bother to try.
“Well, what if there was another way?”
From post (with video) “Highly Sensitive Person? Is Your Perfectionist Mask Keeping You From Coming Out?” – see it on her site MariaPascucci.com.