• Monique West, LCSW

3 Steps On The Road to Perfectionist Recovery!


The need to be “perfect” is more common than you would think. Researchers have recognized and labelled three types of perfectionist type:

  1. Self-Oriented Perfectionist- These self-oriented perfectionist have strong motivation and standards to avoid failure. Self- Oriented perfectionist often think ” I have to get on this and do better.. I never do anything right!”

  2. Other-Oriented Perfectionist- Set extremely high and often times unrealistic goals, standards and expectations of others such as spouses, employers, co-workers and children. An other-oriented perfectionist may constantly nag their children to hang up their clothes, correct their spouse’s way of doing household chores or constantly remind their employees of daily tasks or micro-manage.

  3. Socially- Prescribed Perfectionist- Socially- Prescribed Perfectionist often believes that others hold extraordinary unrealistic standards for their behaviors they harbor pressures to be perfect or others will criticize them harshly. A Socially prescribed perfectionist often will say ” I have to be better or else I’ll let my family down!”

The need to be perfect often comes from :

  • Fear of failure

  • Fear of making mistakes

  • Fear of Disapproval

  • Fear of Social Rejection

  • All or nothing Attitude

The Possible side effects of Perfectionism are:

  • Lowered Self Esteem

  • Self- Frustration

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Increased negative self talk

  • Anger

  • Increase in unfinished projects

Whether you are a self-oriented, others-oriented or socially prescribed perfectionist Learning to recover from Perfectionism means taking these first 3 steps:

  1. Embrace your mistakes! Get in touch with the idea that “you are not your mistakes!” Re-frame a mistake as an opportunity to learn about yourself and the process. Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots in his career and have lost almost 300 games, 26 times he was trusted to take the game’s winning shot and missed. He’s failed his way to success. Celebrate your mistakes as opportunities to get better, more informed, more knowledgeable and effective!

  2. Face your fears! What are you truly afraid of? Being rejected by others, not seeming like the “expert” on a particular topic? Being judged harshly by others? When you can truly name your fears you can begin to face them and work through them. I suggest you write your fears around your perfectionist needs down on a piece of paper. Take a look at them and ask yourself how does this fear serve my greatest self? What is the evidence that this fear is real? Is there another way of thinking about this?

  3. Live Life in Moderation! Remember that virtually nothing in life is ALL or NOTHING. Reminding yourself that if you hand in a paper and it’s not “perfect” you can always take constructive feedback and make the next one a reigning success. If you ate poorly today you can always start again tomorrow making one more healthy choice one meal at a time until it becomes a conditioned behavior.

Affirm your humanness and the progression to the greatest self comes with failing, transitions, moderation and re-tailoring. Your road through perfectionist recovery begins with admitting that perfection is a journey not a state of being!

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