Life’s far from perfect, but when you’re a perfectionist you want to try your best to make your little corner of it as close as possible.
There are advantages to this and you may experience academic, career and even personal success because of being highly focused and organized.
But perfectionism can become too much and start to ruin your life, especially when it reaches the kind of levels I’m going to look at here.
Let’s dive in.
1) You stay up at night agonizing over details
There’s plenty to worry about in life and sometimes there’s just no way around it:
Unpaid bills, medical situations, addiction and tragedy.
But when you start staying up all night because you’re worried over small details like whether you bought the best color of shoes yesterday, you have a problem.
There are only so many things we can get perfect in life, and trying to go back over every decision, purchase and thing you did the past day, week or month it’s inevitably going to lead to intense stress and misery.
2) You analyze emails and texts for hours
Before sending and email or text, or afterwards, do you find yourself thinking back over every sentence and phrase?
Do you rethink whether you should have put an exclamation mark, or substituted another word in?
Maybe you think about how you should have added “Yours truly,” or how doing so was too formal!
You spend far too much time and mental energy genuinely worried about sending perfect emails and texts that have the right “tone” and vibe you want to convey.
You may even find that this kind of obsession starts eating you up from the inside to the point you start communicating as little as possible.
3) You spend way too long on your appearance
Hygiene, grooming and taking care of your appearance definitely matters, including your style and the clothes you wear.
But if you find hours of your day going by due to small tweaks to your appearance, style and accessories, then perfectionism is ruining your life.
There’s no date hot enough and no business meeting important enough to warrant this kind of fussing.
Looking great can take time, but if you find that you’re short on time to even eat or get your basic priorities done due to caring for your appearance then you have a perfectionism issue.
4) You debate endlessly about what to eat
Diet and food choices definitely matter, and it’s great if you want to eat healthy.
But if you’ve gotten to the point where you are counting calories down to the very last decimal point and debating about different flavors or dishes every single meal, it can become a drain on your time.
Digging deeper into what we eat and its effect on us is actually something I highly recommend, as is finding a store or stores which carry products we find agreeable.
But if you find that indecision and health debates about food types spend a lot of your time and energy, you could be falling into food perfectionism.
5) You worry so much about toxins and health threats that you get headaches
As per the last point about deciding what to eat, it’s important to strike a balance here.
If you spend your time reading in-depth research studies on free radicals in your spare time, it’s probably a bit much.
Understanding that forever chemicals in non-stick pans give you Alzheimer’s and cancer, on the other hand, is a common sense truth that everyone should know.
But if you find that you start thinking so much about the pollutants around you that you get a headache you have to consider that the stress and health anxiety itself may be an even bigger burden on you than some of the toxins themselves!
I’m not saying not to care, but I know far too many people who try to eliminate every possible toxin from their life and become joyless and severely stressed.
6) You reject people based on small flaws
We all have them, but when you’re prone to perfectionism it tends to be very small flaws that set you off.
Your one friend who is stingy with money? Gone…
Your girlfriend who posted too many photos on social media? Gone…
And so on.
I’m not saying these people didn’t have real issues, but the problem with perfectionism in relationships is that the result is ending up alone.
7) You start and stop many projects when you hit roadblocks
I have some perfectionist tendencies and have fallen prey to this particular issue many times.
I’ll start a book, or a painting or writing a song, and then I’ll run into a snag of some kind:
Is this really the best hook for the song?
Isn’t the theme of this book a bit stale?
Couldn’t I find something more vivacious to paint?
Then I…just stop.
If you find yourself doing the same thing and giving up on projects partway, you likely have a perfectionist streak in you that’s leading to self-sabotage.
8) You find poor grammar and spelling mistakes intolerable
Having somebody correct your grammar can be maddening and seem very pedantic.
But if you’re a very perfectionistic person, sometimes it’s almost a compulsion.
It can be difficult for you not to text back “It’s YOUR, not YOU’RE” to your friend in all caps.
You don’t want to be cruel or mock people who make basic mistakes, and you’re aware that spellcheck and autocomplete often put in mistakes somebody never saw (as well as voice dictation)…
But you still find it very hard to look away from simple grammatical and spelling errors and they grate on your nerves more than for most.
9) You find it difficult to get over past regrets
Past regrets plague you like superglue.
You find that the mistakes and disappointments of the past make everything feel wrong.
It’s like you have to get everything perfect now to make up for everything that wasn’t perfect back then.
But no matter how high a standard you set (and achieve) it never feels like quite enough.
This feeling of inadequacy can chase you all the way to the top of the career ladder or a seemingly perfect marriage and leave you still feeling you’ve come up short.
That’s because the perfectionism and feeling of failure from the past forms a vicious cycle that gets worse the more you try to feed and placate it with new accomplishments.
This is part of why it’s so important to never base your self-worth on outer accomplishments.
10) You experience high anxiety over things you can’t control
Perfectionism is ultimately a type of anxiety.
It’s an attempt to establish control and order over your own life and external reality in every way possible.
But the big things still can’t be controlled, and so much of what happens to us is still up to chance and unknown.
If perfectionism is becoming a problem for you, you’ll know it due to the frequent anxiety you feel.
Everything unexpected, scary or out of your control makes you feel anxious and upset, and you often find yourself in denial about it.
That’s why things like health anxiety and choosing the perfect foods to eat, for example, serve as ways to try to feel like you can control how long you live.
There are so many ways in which perfectionism is really just a refusal to face how much we can’t control, which is why facing it is about facing that fear and accepting it.
11) You want all or nothing
There’s a big gap between all or nothing, and many of the greatest joys of life are in the journey itself.
But when you are under the sway of perfectionism you often feel like you want either all or nothing.
You want the perfect partner or nobody.
You want a job that fully appreciates you and pays very handsomely or you would rather just be a traveling gypsy.
You find black and white thinking more and more tempting, because it gives you something you feel you can control and understand.
But the result is just a series of disappointments and starting over when the pure or perfect result isn’t achieved…
Down with the shine, the perfect shine
The idea of a perfect ideal has ruined many people’s night’s rest and enjoyment of their day.
Perfectionism also tends to lead to less productivity and less actual results.
The perfect truly is the enemy of the good.
Having high standards is wonderful, but do your best to ensure that the pointers above aren’t becoming an issue in your life.
If they are, do your best to begin scaling back these kinds of behaviors that are making your daily life much more difficult than it should be.