“Wow, what a perfectionist!”
When people compliment the results of someone’s work, they frequently use the term “perfectionist.” Often, the word is used to refer to someone who is good at everything and produces high-quality results. It is sometimes used in a positive connotation, complementing the flawlessness and precision of one’s work.
However, who do psychologists define as a perfectionist? In psychology, perfectionism refers to one’s desire to be flawless, and thus setting unrealistic or overly idealistic goals. In other words, being a perfectionist is not about being versatile or bringing high-quality results; rather, it’s about one’s inability to accept imperfection.
A perfectionist will reject or refuse anything that deviates from their standards of perfection. For example, getting a 95, rather than a 100, may frustrate a perfectionist. Sometimes, it may take hours to finish a simple task, because of their preoccupation with neatness. If a student with perfectionism receives a perfect score on a test, he or she may not be happy about it – rather, one may simply breathe a sigh of relief, glad that they made no mistakes.
Another characteristic of a perfectionist is one’s dichotomous way of thinking. In the life of a perfectionist, there’s only black or white – they either succeed, or fail. Although it may serve as one’s motive to push oneself and try harder, ironically, it may lead one to not try at all. Because perfectionists have an all-or-nothing mindset, they may not try something that they are likely to fail in. It may lead to extreme procrastination, and one may end up getting nothing done.
“The world is not a perfect world,” says Kay Park, a psychotherapist, in an interview with JSR. “It is very important to realize that our world is a mixture of good things and bad things. If one fails to realize so, they may become a perfectionist or an idealist. However, not everything can be perfect, nor it has to be.” One must rid of a black-and-white view of the world and accept oneself – and the world – as it is.