By Keythyn Michelle Porras Berrocal – Psychology career student
“Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks.” (Goethe, n.d., as cited in Edberg, 2020, para. 1). Perfectionism can be seen as a problem or as an element to achieve success. This situation usually develops itself in the workplace and in the social sphere, making it an obstacle in the development of tasks because the person concentrates so much on completing the task, trying to make it perfect, and analyzing even the smallest details. But how could this be frowned upon if it makes us not become mediocre?
Perfectionism has been defined as the constant fear of failure that makes the person obsessed with maintaining high expectations while maintaining high criticism of themselves and the actions they perform. Trying to be perfect is one of the biggest causes of chronic stress and mental problems like anxiety. The American Psychological Association (n.d.) defined anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure”. Anxiety occurs in perfectionist people since, unable to reach the unrealistic high level in their jobs, they think that others are criticizing them even when they are not, they seek to satisfy their fear of failure, but they never fill that void that chases them. Also, when these people realize that they cannot do a perfect job or be the best at something, they can be disappointed and even give up. This causes perfectionists to avoid doing new things; for example, if they want to start doing yoga and don't feel flexible enough, they won't even try it all.
But, how can performance be affected? For Schroeder (2017), “psychologically, we chase perfection because of the safety it provides. It’s easy to hide your flaws behind the veil of perfectionism, and only reveal or act when you feel you are guaranteed success. But in doing this, you often end up limiting yourself and your career.” At a professional level, your career is affected when trying to pursue an unattainable level of perfection that prevents the person from taking new risks while stagnating at work. Avoiding new things does not allow both personal and work growth. Being an inflexible person, that is following a structure solidly, could feel safe for these people, but, psychologically, inflexibility entails pathologies.
The definition of perfectionism must be clear so as not to confuse it with effort, perfectionism is not healthy, nor does allow the person to grow. Perfectionists only see the end of the goal; they are not able to see what needs to be done to achieve it (the middle of the goal). This makes the learning part lose value, as well as the procrastination that comes from not being able to start doing a task unless you know how to do it to get a "perfect" result.
In conclusion, perfectionism can be seen as a good thing by people, but the effort is the only one that should be applauded since, as we saw previously, perfectionism brings with it many difficulties, such as not being able to lead a "normal" life, having to do everything in a structured and perfect way, and the possibility of acquiring pathologies or unnecessary stress. Remember that we are human and that making mistakes is necessary for our learning and growth.
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American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/
Edberg, H. (2020, May 15). 3 Common Obstacles That Keep People Stuck in Perfectionism, and How to Overcome Them. Retrieved from https://www.positivityblog.com/perfectionism/
Schroeder, J. (2017, March 22). How Perfectionism Is Sabotaging Your Career. Forbes. Retrieved fr