Being a perfectionist doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Setting high standards can drive us to work hard to achieve our goals. However, the problem comes when those high standards are unrealistically high for us. For example, maybe your goal is to get an A in a class – this goal makes you focused, and you work hard to be organized throughout the semester. But then you might start having thoughts like, “I must get an A on this exam and if I don’t, then I am a failure.” When we add that last piece – the negative label we attach to ourselves if we fall short of our expectations – we can be discouraged from trying again next time, and this type of thinking can really destroy our self-confidence.
I would say that I can be a perfectionist at times, particularly around academics. I have always had high expectations for myself around grades, which worked for me because it pushed me to study hard. But I notice that even after I write a test, for instance, I constantly tell myself that I didn’t do good enough even though I haven’t gotten a mark back yet. And even if I get a good grade, I focus less on the fact that I did well and more on how I could do better next time. I don’t take the time to give myself credit for doing well because I am always focused on what I did wrong rather than what I did right.