We all want to do our best. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
Well, yes and no. It’s healthy for all of us to do our best because we can feel pride in our skills, our knowledge, our competence and our mastery. But it’s not so good to be a perfectionist, because then we are driven not by pride--but by fear of failure, which more often than not undercuts our self-confidence, sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
Take this quiz to determine where you stand: Answer each question (1) Seldom (2) Sometimes (3) More often than not (4) Often.
When I look back at my life, I see more failures than successes.
Saving face is important to me. Therefore, I will seldom let it show publicly if I’m embarrassed, hurt or angry.
I would rather do tasks, assignments or projects on my own because I know they will be done right.
There’s frequently a large gap between what I shoot for and what I achieve, and I wind up disappointed in myself a lot.
I have piles of stuff waiting for me to get to, but I have an extremely hard time getting the job done.
I fear being criticized.
When I give someone a task to do, I expect it to be done the way I would do it: thoroughly, competently and with no mistakes.
When someone is driving me, I am vigilant in looking out for possible dangers or potential accidents.
I never felt like I was able to meet my parents’ expectations.
I frequently worry about making mistakes. As a result, I tend to procrastinate and I often fall behind and miss deadlines.
I point out my spouse’s or partner’s mistakes because it’s the only way she/he will learn.
I often get behind in my work because I repeat or edit things over and over.
I want my children to succeed, so I tell them when they’ve made a mistake.
No matter how many times I’ve succeeded, even one failure makes me seriously question my abilities.
My inner thoughts and inner talk is self-critical.
I often treat all of my tasks with importance, and since I want to do everything well, I have difficulty prioritizing which of my tasks to do first, and which require more of my time and focus.
I have a hard time admitting that I am wrong. I tend to want to explain myself.
I tend to be defensive.
I worry about what others think of me.
I expect my partner/spouse/lover to live by high standards just like I do.
I am a rule follower, and I get angry or annoyed by people who violate the rules.
I often silently compare myself negatively to others — Am I dressed that well? Am I that thin? Do I handle myself as effectively?
It’s difficult for me to make a decision and stick to it. I often question whether my decision was the best choice.
If I were told that my work was “satisfactory,” I would feel like I failed.
I secretly feel inferior to other people. I can think of lots of people who are better than me, or smarter or more attractive.
Scoring: Add up your total number of points. If your score is 25-50, you are not considered a perfectionist. You can feel mindful of others without normally feeling controlled by them. If your score is 51-62, you have a tendency toward being a perfectionist, but not overwhelmingly so. If your score is 63-74, you may want to look at this closely, because these perfectionist traits are likely affecting your relationships with others, and your own level of happiness as well. A score of 75 or more, you qualify as a perfectionist, and you are very likely unhappy with yourself. You are afraid of making mistakes, and you are fighting an uphill battle. Perhaps it’s time to confront this issue.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in it’s 21st year of publication, and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website: www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.