I have stopped and started this thing over and over.
When I sit down, I wonder, “How can I word this the best way?”
“What’s the right thing to say about this pattern?”
And then, judging what I wrote as not good enough, I vow to come back to it later.
Such is the life of the Perfectionist.
Before we get into the pattern, if you’re new to me, let’s talk a little about Attachment Personality Patterns.
When you’re born into a dysfunctional family, whether it’s alcoholism, addiction, chronic sickness, smothering, or absent parenting, you develop a way to thrive, survive, connect, or cope in that family.
Essentially, you find a way to be loved, or not get hurt and I call these Attachment Personality Patterns. They are a form of codependency.
I’ve come up with 5 core traits of each of the 8 personalities, you can find them at www.LoveCoachHeidi.Com .
It’s important to remember that patterns are not pathology. You can change your pattern when you choose to do the work of codependency recovery.
But the very first step is awareness, because you cannot change what you don’t see.
With that awareness in mind, here are the 5 core traits of the Perfectionist.
Core trait #1. Perfectionists have difficulty admitting mistakes and overreact to criticism.
Perfectionists could mess up royally; they could fail out of college at the 11th hour and find a way to spin it into a positive light. “Well, at least I made it all the way to the end before that happened.”
If you tell a perfectionist they hurt your feelings, they will say something like, “I’m sorry if I hurt you.”
Or “I’m sorry you thought that’s what I meant and that hurt you.”
Very rarely, if ever, will they simply own it and say, “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
This is because if they own up to hurting you, they feel they are admitting they are flawed in some way. This can be maddening if you’re with a Perfectionist because they never fully validate your experiences.
A perfectionist will try and think of every possible outcome before pulling the trigger on something because they are trying to avoid criticism.
Let’s say a Perfectionist work night and day on a project for work. They will pour their heart and soul into it, making sure everything is just right. They’ll turn it in, believing it’s exactly the right way it needs to be.
But let’s say the boss send an email that the project needs tweaking.
The Perfectionist will blow the email out of proportion. Then, they’ll either launch into an argument defending the way they did things in an attempt to appear right or they will start cleaning out their desk, thinking they are about to get fired.
And that’s because of the next trait.
Core trait #2. Perfectionists are very black and white, all or nothing thinking.
Most Perfectionists won’t even attempt anything unless they already believe they will be successful at it. Rarely, will they try something for the sake of seeing how it goes. Perfectionists are ties to an outcome and they outcome is being good, looking perfect and doing things the right way.
If they are having a difficult time and performance is suffering at said task, they will abandon it proclaiming it’s a waste of their time.
In the mind of the perfectionist they are either awesome or they suck. There is no grace.
Core trait #3. Perfectionists judge themselves and others without mercy. When a perfectionist does make a mistake, even though they will not admit it to others, does not mean they are unaware or in denial about it.
A Controller pattern will believe they’re always right, but a Perfectionist will actually believe they might be wrong and that scares the Hell out of them.
So after an argument where the Perfectionist spoke their mind, they will ruminate on what they said and how they said it over and over to confirm it was good, correct or right.
Controllers say something, believe it’s the gospel and move on. Perfectionists ruminate and stew.
They will also look at others mistakes and be hyper critical.
They look at others lives and constantly judge others choices. But this is usually as a means to confirm that the Perfectionist’s way of doing things is better, right, and good.
Core triat #4. Perfectionists hold themselves and others to impossibly high expectations.
Not only does the Perfectionist believe they must do everything perfectly, they believe others must too. This trait is the most difficult for partners. Because of that all or nothing, black and white thinking, Perfectionists often see their partners as good or terrible. They vacillate between the two and often gave no grace. Because they believe they know the right and best way to do things, they also believe everyone else should automatically know the best and right way to do things. So, when other’s fall short, they are hyper critical of them.
Core trait #5. Perfectionist have trouble seeing a project through until the end. They procrastinate and lack follow through in areas where they feel ill equipped.
Unlike a Performer who will scratch, claw and find a way to make it the top, even if delayed by failure, the Perfectionist gets crippled by it.
When they run into too much resistance, or things feel too hard, they give up. Although hey promise to continue, they rarely return to the original project. They will trade it in for something they feel more secure about accomplishing.
Perfectionists stop and start things more times than they can count. But because they compound that with the other traits of all or nothing thinking and hyper sensitivity to criticism, they rarely complete the things they don’t feel confident in. This is not to say they don’t complete things, they will complete the things they feel good at. But they tend to be risk adverse in the areas where they don’t feel they have mastery.
So, what’s the path out of the trap of Perfectionism?
Take out a journal and write about how each trait shows up for you or holds you back in your life. Then, go over to www.LoveCoachHeidi.com and check out our programs for Codependency Recovery.