What is perfectionism? This is the definition of stable personality characteristics existing in psychology, manifested in an uncompromising desire for perfection and achievement of the highest standards in all spheres of life (perfectus in Latin means perfect, exemplary, best). However, one should not confuse such different concepts as the desire to succeed and the desire to be perfect; In addition, self-discipline does not always mean pathology ...
Causes of the perfectionism
To date, there is no consensus on the cause of perfectionism. The etiology of this multifaceted psychological construct is seen either in the altered perception of one's own personality, or in the predominance of irrational thinking (which does not allow one to adequately perceive reality), or in partial cognitive dysfunction.
The peculiarities of perfectionism include the tendency to concentrate on personal experiences, constantly comparing oneself with others (and not in their favor!), Perceiving the world in a "black and white" version, without taking into account the halftones and nuances. This set of psychological characteristics is considered a sign of functional insufficiency of personality and a certain immaturity of thinking.
The psychological structure of perfectionism, singled out by specialists, includes ego-oriented, socially oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism. Their differences are based on the subjects of a focused pursuit of excellence. When focusing only on his own personality, the perfectionist constantly assesses himself strictly to avoid failures, and this, by the way, is the easiest option. Such perfectionism in the work promotes promotion on a career ladder due to the fact that such employees are attentive to detail and are workaholics.
When a person is characterized by a syndrome of perfectionism in a socially oriented version, expectation of perfection in other people prevails: friends, family members, employees. This perfectionism in a relationship, for example, with the increased criticality and exactingness of one of the spouses, creates such interpersonal problems, the solution of which in many cases is divorce. And perfectionism in intimate relationships - with the inflated expectations of both partners - can cause long-term problems in the sexual sphere.
Finally, the socially prescribed perfectionism is determined by the fact that, on the one hand, a person considers the possibility of recognizing one's personality in society only on condition of his impeccability, inadequately assessing the demands of others as overstated and perceiving it as external pressure. On the other hand, unreasonably high demands are also made on others. And this option, leading to depression and other problems, may require the help of a psychiatrist, not a psychologist.
When a person is told that he is a perfectionist, he also refers to the excessive criticality of his self-esteem and hypertrophied concern about how he is perceived by others. Psychopathologists around the world note that the relevance of perfectionism as a motivational-behavioral model aimed at the embodiment of unjustifiably high personal claims has increased in recent decades.
You ask, what is dangerous perfectionism? In its inadequate realities, the desire to always and in everything be better than others and, at all costs, to achieve the goal - especially when this goal is difficult to implement in practice - perfectionists face serious psychological problems that can be transformed into mental ones, causing unipolar depression , obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia, suicide attempts.
Symptoms of the perfectionism
In the behavior of those who, with pathological perseverance, strive to be a model of perfection, and consider their slightest mistakes and mistakes to be a sign of their own shortcomings, characteristic signs of perfectionism are noted:
an attempt to meet high standards in all spheres of life (a radical type of thinking is possible by the principle of "all or nothing");
uncertainty in themselves and their abilities (understated self-esteem);
doubts about the correctness of their actions (indecisiveness);
fear of disapproval and rejection, including by parents;
constant concern about possible mistakes;
mistakes made are perceived as evidence of their shortcomings;
obsession with rules and the initial certainty that everything around should be ideal;
irritation and other negative emotions from "non-ideal" people, actions, circumstances, etc.
Since perfectionists are concentrated solely on the results of efforts, with all three structural variants of this psychological construct, there is a sign such as procrastination. Perfectionism and procrastination (irrational postponement of the beginning of any case) are considered in psychology in a close relationship, as in both states there is a fear of a possible failure.
Another important feature of perfectionism is the inability to relax and share your thoughts and feelings: as a rule, perfectionists keep their personal and professional relationships under control.
Syndrome of perfectionism: features of manifestation
Experts-psychoanalysts say that the perfectionism of parents makes them intolerant to the imperfection of their children. Striving to be the best fathers and mothers, adults cease to perceive the son or daughter as a separate person - with inherent traits, interests and desires. Hardly criticizing the child for any misconduct or negligence, not delving into his feelings, parents may face resistance, especially characteristic of adolescence. And in the preschool age, the mechanism of hyperactivity and attention deficit in a child with behavioral disorders can be triggered.
Another option: children are struggling to please their parents under any circumstances and under their pressure themselves become unsure of their abilities perfectionists. For them, features of ritualized behavior are inherent. Observations of psychologists confirm: child perfectionism is born out of fear of not justifying parental expectations and attitudes toward criticism of parents, as evidence of their dislike. Perfectionism is an unprecedented defense for "emotionally abandoned" children.
This same etiology also has teenage perfectionism, which develops in families where parents perceive the successes or failures of children as markers of their own success or failure. Fear of doing something wrong with a teenager can be devastating to motivate people to achieve their goals in adulthood. Victims of such fear, as a rule, try to avoid situations in which the results of their efforts will be assessed; for this reason, in school such adolescents become lagging pupils with the prospect of developing an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Neurotic perfectionism in maternity manifests itself literally from the first days of the appearance of the child. Mom gives all her strength to the care and upbringing of the baby and under the weight of responsibility for his health and proper development, in his homework to ensure sterile cleanliness and exemplary order, he forgets about his own needs (there is simply no time left for satisfying them). From the impossibility of making all perfect perfectionist women with young children often fall into depression and often turn into a neurasthenic.
Perfectionism in men striving for a high social status in the conditions of severe competition in the professional sphere, can manifest itself both in the work and outside it. Especially clearly the signs (listed above) appear in men brought up by authoritarian parents, whose love was considered a reward for good behavior and study. Most male perfectionists do not know how to enjoy life, often all are unhappy and constantly complex about their alleged shortcomings.
The perfectionism of teachers, who are never good enough, is a real and very difficult test for students, since it is difficult for such teachers to create a friendly, educationally friendly atmosphere in the classroom.
And the perfectionism of students who have only excellent grades in a student's record book, in the case of a socially prescribed version of perfectionism, can result in a switch from achieving personal goals to a race in competition against classmates.
Particular attention of practicing psychotherapists takes the so-called food perfectionism. Women seeking an "ideal figure" may be at risk of developing an eating disorder. And this is already a diagnosis - anorexia. Studies have shown that the continuous desire for leanness among those suffering from anorexia is associated with socially prescribed inadequate perfectionism in these people.
There, too, the roots of such a problem as physical perfectionism, although some psychologists consider him to be a perfectionism directed only at himself, linking his development with such a character trait as vanity. Here you can reliably include some clients (and clients) of plastic surgeons.
Types of perfectionism, which psychologists call types, depend on how much the goals that the person poses are real, and also on the propensity of the individual to see the causes of failures in their shortcomings, disparaging one's self-esteem.
There are two types: adaptive and inadequate. In psychological literature, adaptive perfectionism can be defined as constructive perfectionism. Many psychologists believe that this is a healthy perfectionism that can motivate and stimulate a person to move towards a goal. And for "normal" perfectionists, this often goes without, and without the slightest detriment to self-esteem. They get pleasure from their efforts and from the very process of their application.
All other definitions - disadaptive perfectionism, neurotic perfectionism, excessive perfectionism - synonyms for an inadequate obsession with impeccability and personal achievements with rigid self-criticism, that is, it is all, in fact, pathological perfectionism. And in this case, the inability to achieve the goal, solve some problems, as well as the mistakes made make a person see in themselves a lot of shortcomings and constantly feel discontent with themselves. The result is a state of deep frustration, driving into a prolonged depression.
Diagnostics of the perfectionism
Diagnosis of perfectionism is carried out by testing: the patient, at the request of the therapist, fills the questionnaire of perfectionism.
There are a lot of systems for identifying and "measuring" this psychological construct:
the multidimensional Hewitt-Flett perfectionism scale (Pol Hewitt, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, Gordon Flett, York University, Toronto), which includes 45 questions with answer options;
The Almost Perfect Scale-Revised Scale (APS-R), Robert B. Slaney (USA), contains 32 questions;
Frost's perfectionism scale (MPS) is a 35-point questionnaire developed by Dr. Randy Frost of Smith College, Massachusetts;
the perfectionism scale of American psychiatrist D. Burns (Burns Perfectionism Scale);
a test for perfectionism and the level of Likert stress;
several variants of the American questionnaire of perfectionism Clinical Perfectionism Questionnaire (CPQ);
a test for perfectionism in children Adaptive / Maladaptive Perfectionism Scale of a team of Canadian psychiatrists;
the PAPS scale for identifying physical perfectionism.
Treatment of the perfectionism
The first step in overcoming perfectionism is recognizing that you have problems.
Despite the high level of self-criticism, perfectionists prefer to hide their personal problems. Instead of lying to oneself, experts recommend making a list of these problems. More often than not, the negative of the desire for excellence in maladaptive perfectionism far outweighs the apparent benefits of such a motivational-behavioral model.
Seek help from a good psychologist. It is impossible to get rid of perfectionism, but helping to reduce it will help:
identify more realistic goals;
the realization that "imperfect" results do not lead to a punishment, which must be feared in advance;
the recognition that everyone is mistaken and that they learn from mistakes;
step-by-step breakdown of the process of accomplishing the tasks ahead;
focus on one business in the allotted time;
setting deadlines for each case that you begin;
limitation of their execution time.
In addition to consulting a specialist, it is useful to read books about perfectionism:
Brown. B. Gifts of imperfection: How to love yourself as you are. - Translation from English. - M., ANF. 2014.
Brown B. Great daring. - Translation from English. - M .: Azbuka Business. 2014.
Korostyleva LA Psychology of self-realization of personality. - St. Petersburg. - 2005.
Horney K. Neurosis and personal growth. - Translation from English. - St. Petersburg. - 1997.
Sutton R. Do not work with m * dakas. And what to do if they are around you. - Translation from English. - M. - 2015.
McClelland D. Motivation of man. - Translation from English. - St. Petersburg. - 2007.
Kurpatov A. 3 mistakes of our parents: Conflicts and complexes. - OLMA. - 2013.
Winnicott D. Young children and their mothers. - Translation from English. - M. - 1998.
Robert E. Secrets of self-confidence. - Translation from English. - M. - 1994.
Ilyin E. Work and Personality. Workaholism, perfectionism, laziness. - St. Petersburg. 2016.
Perfectionism is an insecure state in an imperfect world. But sometimes talented people show signs of perfectionism, who achieve success in their field. According to some reports, 87% of gifted individuals were perfectionists, although almost 30% of them were neurotic ...
According to the American psychiatrist David M. Burns, one should strive for success, not perfection. "Never abolish your right to make a mistake, because then you will lose the opportunity to learn new things and move forward in life. Remember that fear is always hiding behind perfectionism. Counteracting your fears and allowing yourself to be just a person, you can, paradoxically, become much more successful and happy. "
Last update: 25.06.2018
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Medical expert editor
Portnov Alexey Alexandrovich
Education: Kiev National Medical University. A.A. Bogomolets, Specialty - "General Medicine"