Is Being a Perfectionist a Strength or a Weakness?
Everyone would be happy to hear that the surgeon who will be operating 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 and the strive to get things done to the highest standard? Is it actually a problem?
For psychologists, you are a perfectionist if you do 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 lies.
People who have the so-called “A-student complex” often face the problem of the impossibility of being the best in everything. Will children get their mom to read a book to them after she put her creative energy into the new project at work for 8 hours? It is unlikely, since she will be exhausted and 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 previous example aims to demonstrate that the woman is stressed not so much due to her obsession with excellence but due to high social expectations for all of her social roles: a professional, a parent, and a housewife. It is shameful for her to admit that, for example, she has to offer fast food to her kids and her husband. It is not something she would 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. Social life must undergo major changes. While perfectionism is a factor of success in certain areas of a person’s life, it 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.