4 signs that you're a perfectionist

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I see a lot of people struggling with perfectionism these days. Generally, a perfectionist has been running on all cylinders for quite some time, and by the time they walk through my door they are so far past burnout, it doesn’t even make sense how they are still a functioning adult. And honestly, sometimes they’ve hit the point that they can barely function.

That’s an exhausting way to live life, isn’t it?

What is perfectionism?

By definition, perfectionism is striving to be flawless, making no mistakes - mostly being perfect.

However, at its core, like most unhealthy behaviors, it’s an attempt to fix what is broken inside and meet our own needs.

Part of what I mean by that is no healthy person is a perfectionist. Healthy people can not only make mistakes but have an understanding that mistakes aren’t a reflection of who they are as a person.

What we typically see with perfectionism is someone who has un-dealt with internal wounds trying to soothe that pain through perfectionistic behavior.

Possibly without realizing it, they are driving by the idea that: what I do makes me who I am.

And because it’s not only humanly impossible to sustain this type of behavior, you also weren’t created to fulfill and maintain your own needs. At some point, you’ll inevitably hit burnout.

What are some signs of perfectionism?

1) You experience guilt or shame regularly

Because it’s impossible to sustain perfect behavior, you may often feel shame for who you are as a person. Perfectionist ties their accomplishments to their identity. So, for example, to make a mistake might internally equate to “I am a mistake.” A healthy person can separate their identity with their behavior. What I do does not make me who I am. I am a human that is capable and regularly does make mistakes. But that in no way, shape, or form determines my God-given identity. I am enough, and always will be, because God says I am.

2) You are tirelessly trying to accomplish a to-do list that never gets done

A good understanding of a to-do list allows for real life to happen. You have goals, can be efficient, but you don’t feel less than if you don’t get it all done. And you don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself to accomplish ALL THE THINGS!

You’re able to let things go that aren’t so important in certain seasons of life and care for the things that really matter.

I don’t need to be a Pinterest mom, I just need to be an available mom. I don’t care that I used dry shampoo and didn’t have time to work out today. I’d like to add those things into my schedule, but I can let go of the “ideal” or “perfect” day/life and live realistically.

3) You often fall into the idea that it’s all or nothing

I see this a lot where someone will be overextending themselves and trying to get everything done. Or they feel like a failure and don’t get anything done. It can vacillate between these two extremes. And generally, you only feel good about yourself when you’re accomplishing something. And if you’re being honest, no matter what you accomplish, it never feels like enough.

4) You’re driven by fear in most of what you do

This one is plain and simple - fear rules your life. And honestly, you may be so used to it that in some areas you may not even realize how fearful you are.

Perfectionism is fundamentally rooted in a deep fear about yourself. i.e., I’m not good enough, or I don’t measure up, for example.

At the end of the day, no one makes good decisions out of fear. And you’re certainly not operating from an authentic version of yourself when you’re being governed by fear, either.

At the end of the day, perfectionism is an attempt to fix what you think is broken inside of you. And it’s desperately attempting to patch up those wounds that say “I’m not enough” with external successes and accomplishes.

The truth is, you’re not broken. Not your identity, anyways. The things you do or don’t do will never be a true reflection of who you are as a person. You can accomplish all the things, or you can achieve very little, and you are still a worthy human being.