Can you identify a perfectionist?
Have you ever been told that you are a perfectionist? Or have you ever felt that you a perfectionist? When everything needs to be “just right”? There is a difference between striving for excellence and wanting to do well, compared with excessive perfectionism. Perfectionism has been described as a personality trait or a set of beliefs that you need to be perfect or at least appear to be perfect. Perfectionists strain compulsively and unceasingly toward unobtainable goals, and measure their self-worth by productivity and accomplishment. Perfectionists tend to be harshly critical when they fail to meet their standards and are rarely satisfied due to the high demands and expectations they put on themselves. They may be motivated by fear of failure, and experience self-doubt. On the other hand, people who are striving, want to achieve excellence, but with a desire to improve. This is accompanied with a sense of optimism, satisfaction and pleasure.
Do you work with athletes with perfectionist tendencies? Are you a coach with perfectionist tendencies? Is perfectionism a good or bad thing? Because perfectionists achieve in performance settings, then people may see this as a good thing. “They are so hard working, they never give up”. And of course these are good qualities. Nevertheless, when this is accompanied with criticism when fall short of perfection, then it can be very detrimental to psychological wellbeing. Perfectionism has many negative effects on mental wellbeing such as eating disorders, depression, migraines, anxiety and personality disorders. Always striving for perfection can lead to decreased productivity, stress and relationship issues.
How to spot if you or your athletes are perfectionist
1) You set very high and unrealistic goals.
2) You see any mistake as a failure.
3) If someone does a task better than you, you feel like you have failed.
4) You try to hide your mistakes from others.
5) You often work very hard, and either keep redoing things until its “right” or put things off that you don’t feel you are good enough at.
6) You don’t like taking risks and prefer to stick to the safe option.
7) You feel that if people see your flaws, they won’t accept you.
8) You don’t handle criticism and feedback very well.
9) When critised you take it personally and think about it days later.
10) You apply unrealistic standards to others around you.
11) You are intensely competitive and cant stand doing worse than others.
12) You won’t ask for help if asking can be perceived as a flaw or weakness.
13) You are a fault finder and must correct people when doing wrong.
How many of these do you identify with? What experience have you had working with perfectionist athletes?
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About Tracy Donachie
PhD candidate researching perfectionism in sport and performance psychology consultant.