Bonnie Weiss, LCSW and Jay Earley, Ph.D.
The Perfectionist tries to get you to do everything perfectly. It has very high standards for your behavior and especially for products you create or tasks you perform. In business, this often comes up around written reports. The Perfectionist says that something you have produced still isn’t good enough and must be improved to exacting standards before anyone sees it. You feel anxious or agitated when it’s time to turn in a project. The Perfectionist makes you doubt the quality of what you have produced by focusing only on its possible shortcomings. The result is that you end up working much harder and longer on a project than is really necessary. People with Perfectionist parts often are unable to turn anything in until they have reached the absolute deadline; and some may consistently turn in work late.
The Perfectionist part is afraid to stamp something as finished. It is afraid that if you turn in something that isn’t absolutely perfect, you will be judged, rejected, dismissed, or even ridiculed. It may be afraid that you will be seen as mediocre, because it feels that excellence is required for you to be OK. The Perfectionist believes that you have a sloppy part that would be willing to turn in inferior work, and its job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. The Perfectionist often does this through harsh self-criticism. It doesn’t just tell you to improve your work, it shames you. It may even call you stupid, lazy, sloppy, and so on. This can make a part of you feel inadequate, or ashamed, or perhaps depressed.
Most Perfectionist parts learned this approach by modeling themselves after a parent, guardian, or teacher–someone who was also a perfectionist, and never satisfied with what you produced, only focusing on what needed correction.
Some Perfectionist parts are so frightened of failure that they won’t let you produce anything. The first few rounds of work on any project will be preliminary and require more work. However, some Perfectionists can’t stand to produce anything that is less than so-called perfect, even if they aren’t going to show it to anyone. A part like this may interfere with your ability to even get started on a project. For example, it can cause severe writer’s block.
Perfectionist parts can also have high standards about your appearance, your behavior, or your performance. You must be perfectly groomed and behave impeccably. Your house must be perfect and so must your family. Any performance you make must be flawless. They usually focus entirely on what isn’t perfect and fail to give you appreciation for what you have done well.
Some Perfectionist parts are concerned about having everything in your life completely in order. Others are worried about always doing the right thing, or making the right choice. They feel that your life must remain perfectly in control, and be predictable, in order to feel safe. They judge you harshly for any mistake or any time you get out of line.
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