Is Being a Perfectionist a Strength or a Weakness?
I suppose that everyone would be happy to hear that the surgeon who is going to operate on them is a perfectionist. Likewise, we would be glad to recommend to our friends the tile-setter who made repairs in our bathroom, which now looks just perfect. His perfectionism serves him right and helps him earn a decent living.
So what is the problem with perfectionism, a strive to get things done to the highest standard? Is it a problem at all?
For psychologists, you are a perfectionist if you not just set ambitious goals at your job and pursue those with supreme attention and meticulousness but also spread the elevated standards to all spheres of your life, be it household chores, relationship with your spouse, parenting, etc. And this is where the trouble comes about.
People who have the so-called “A-student complex” often face the problem of impossibility to be the best in everything. Will the kids get their mom read a book to them after she was putting her creative energy into the new project at work for 8 hours? No, sorry, she is exhausted and does not have enough time. Moreover, she has no time to cook a delicious and healthy dinner, and the sink in the bathroom is not shining…
The example above aims to demonstrate that the woman is stressed not so much due to her obsession with excellence as due to high social expectations as to all of her social roles: a professional, a parent, and a housewife. It is a shame for her to admit that she has to offer fast food to her kids and her husband. It is not something she is going to boast about to her friends.
Thus, perfectionism appears to be largely a social problem. In the contemporary world, high standards have become a socially accepted norm, which is unreachable unless you change your social status or, for instance, the workday is cut from 8 down to 4 hours, i.e. social life undergoes major changes. To sum it up, while being a factor of success in certain areas of a person’s life, perfectionism proves to be a cause of stress and lack of harmony. It is important that these negative effects are rooted to a great extent in the existing and dominating social patterns.