- How they look
- What they achieve
- What others think of them
- What they feel
- A relationship
- The ideal spouse
- Expectations for their kids
- Keeping their home immaculate
- And yes, having the perfect lawn
For these perfectionists, when their compulsion is not ideal, (which is almost all the time) they feel bad. They are beset with inner feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, guilt, anxiety, jealousy, or emptiness.
We think, "If it's not perfect then it's bad" or "If I can't do it right then I won't do it at all." This kind of black and white, all-or-nothing thinking gets perfectionists into trouble.
Perfectionists struggle to live in reality. They often procrastinate, neglect responsibilities, commitments, or isolate from others. And even when they have succeeded at something they often don't enjoy their success. "It could've been even better," we think. Or rather than savoring their achievement they've already moved on to perfecting their next project.
Perfectionism is Deadly
For some, perfectionism has a tragic end: suicide. One well-known example is that of former deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster.
Prior to his time in Washington D.C. Foster's life looked super successful and spotless: first in his law school class, highest score on the Arkansas bar exam, partner in a prestigious law firm, stable marriage and family, popular, a sterling reputation.
Foster's perfect life all unraveled, especially the sterling reputation. Things went wrong at the White House (wow, who would have thought) in the early months of the Clinton administration. He couldn't remedy the situation and he felt responsible. To make matters worse, the media was all over him, questioning his integrity and competence. His reputation had been destroyed. He killed himself in July of 1993.
Most perfectionists never take things to this tragic end, but Vincent Foster's story illustrates just how increasingly consuming and destructive a problem perfectionism can become if it's not addressed.
Are You a Perfectionist?
God's Grace is perfect! Perfect enough to work with a guy like me. Grace is not condemning. God's grace comes from his perfect and wonderful love. Full of compassion beyond what we could ever imagine. And it's it endless. Totally endless. It is so perfect that I cannot find a flaw in it. It is what I need when I need it. I just need to accept it. For some of us that is a difficult thing to do. We think we have to do something, be something or help in the process. If you are like me, you may also wounder if God's grace is enough to work in my "special" situation. You may enjoy another articial about grace. "Is Grace Enough"
If you or someone you know struggles with perfectionism, know that there is hope. There is help for perfectionists! It all begins with identifying that your perfectionism has gotten out of control.
Not Out of Control Yet????
Just thinking "I got this" is a sure sign you already are out of control. As stated before, we cannot have things perfect in an imperfect world. Somewhere someone in your life, friends, family, God, or even yourself have been neglected. Before you or someone else ends up on the side of the highway take defensive actions.
Find out and take this Perfectionism Survey this will help you see to what extent you (or a loved one) may have perfectionists' tendencies. It will highlight the areas that you may need to let God's perfect grace free you of anxious perfectionism.