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Perfectionism is not the search for excellence, it is the search for the unobtainable. It goes beyond doing your very best. Perfectionism is not a healthy pursuit of excellence. The healthy striver has drive, while the Perfectionist is driven. One definition states a Perfectionist as "a person having a disposition which regards anything short of perfect as being unacceptable."
For example, a Perfectionist student may hand in a paper a week late or not at all, rather than hand it in on time with imperfect structure.
A Perfectionist worker may spend so much time agonising over some insignificant detail that a critical project misses its deadline.
A Perfectionist student may find it very hard to begin a task because all aspects of the task should and must be done very well.
How perfectionists think
Perfectionism is based on the belief that unless I am perfect I am not good enough… I am not OK. Perfectionists use other people's apparent shortcomings to enhance their own feelings of self-worth when they compare themselves with 'flawed' or 'lesser' or 'imperfect' others.
By needing to be seen as perfect, Perfectionists may set themselves up for continuous rejection, self-put downs and deny themselves peace of mind. Even when Perfectionists do achieve, their methods often deprive them of the very love and acceptance they want so badly.
A number of negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs may be associated with Perfectionism.
What to do about perfectionism
Perceptual differences between Perfectionists and Realists
|Unreasonable goals||Realistic goals|
|Can’t feel satisfied||Can reward self|
|Compares self negatively with others||Recognises own positive uniqueness|
|Cannot discuss own mistakes comfortably||Accepts errors as a part of life's lessons|
|Excessive, often chronic fear of failure||Accepts failure as a part of learning|
|Uses others' standards for success||Goals derived from self awareness|
|Focuses only on the outcome||Enjoys the "journey"|
|Emphasises keeping life under control||Emphasises keeping life in balance|
|Feels devalued unless performing well||Accepts self as valuable, not perfect|
Once you have tried these suggestions, you are likely to realise that Perfectionism is neither a helpful or necessary influence in your life. There are alternative ways to think that are more beneficial. Not only are you likely to achieve more without your Perfectionism, but you will feel better in the process.
Excellence and Perfection
In order to strive for excellence you certainly don't have to be perfect - do you?
From Dick Hubbard (Businessman and former Massey graduate)
Where to from here?
If you would like to make an appointment to see a counsellor to learn more about this topic please contact the counselling service on your campus. Distance students can contact any one of the campuses.
Please tell the receptionist if you need an urgent appointment.
Albany: Health and Counselling Centre Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 5.00 pm. Telephone (09) 213 6700.
Manawatu: Student Counselling Service, Turitea Campus, Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 5.00 pm (8.30 - 4.30 during semester breaks). Telephone (06) 350-5533.
Wellington: Student Counselling Service, The Student Services Trust @ Wellington, Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 4.30 pm. Telephone (04) 801-2542.
Page authorised by Regional Registrars
Last updated on Tuesday 29 November 2016