While many elite athletes, successful entrepreneurs, and groundbreaking researchers have some perfectionist tendencies, their drive for excellence doesn't hold them back. While some psychologists describe these high achievers as 'adaptive perfectionists,' other researchers declare they aren't true perfectionists.
True perfectionists–also called maladaptive perfectionists–struggle to succeed. Their need for perfection hinders their performance and prevents them from ever feeling ‘good enough.’
Here are seven signs that your healthy drive for excellence has crossed over into an unhealthy need for perfection:
1. You View Mistakes as Proof You're Inadequate
Rather than view mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow, perfectionists view mistakes are proof they're not good enough. They respond to blunders with harsh self-criticism and minor mishaps often leave them feeling defeated.
2. You Can't Celebrate Your Success
Perfectionists don’t feel comfortable declaring victory, no matter how successful they’ve become. Rather than acknowledge their talent, they may chalk up their achievements to luck. At other times, they continue to criticize themselves by saying things like, "I should have reached my goal faster," or "If I were smarter I wouldn't have had to work so hard."
3. Your Self-Worth Depends on Your Achievement
Perfectionists don't feel good about who they are. Their self-worth rests solely on what they do and how much they accomplish. Since they never really feel successful, they almost always lack self-confidence.
4. You Demand Perfection from Others
True perfectionists don't just expect perfection from themselves–they also expect those around them to perform at unrealistic levels. Their unrealistically high standards and excessively critical feedback wreak havoc on their relationships.
5. Your Mental Health Suffers
Perfectionism is associated with a variety of mental health problems, ranging from obsessive-compulsive disorder to eating disorders to depression. Studies have even citied perfectionism as a risk factor for suicide.
6. You Avoid Doing Things Where You May Fail
Perfectionists aren't interested in personal growth. They're more concerned with showing off their current skills, rather than learning new ones. They tend to choose less challenging activities where they're more likely to succeed, rather than explore new opportunities where they may struggle.
7. You Aren't Satisfied with Your Life
The intense fear of failure and anxiety over the future prevents perfectionists from feeling truly satisfied with their lives. Research shows that perfectionists often do well in low stress environments, but everyday hassles and stressful life events can take a serious toll on their life satisfaction.
8. You Take a Long Time to Complete Tasks
While driven people are hard workers who complete tasks efficiently, true perfectionists struggle to get anything done. Whether they're re-writing an email a dozen times to make sure it's perfect, or they're rehearsing their pitch so many times they miss a deadline, their efforts to be perfect impair their productivity.
9. You Invest a Lot of Energy into Masking Your Imperfections
True perfectionists invest a lot of energy into masking their flaws. They worry about being harshly judged by others and in an effort to escape that judgement, they work hard to keep up the appearance of perfection.