Q: Although I have struggled most of my life with an overwhelming drive toward perfectionism, I have done little to make life easier for myself. Lately I have begun to understand that this trait is interfering with my relationships and that is upsetting.
The problem is that I procrastinate. I know that whatever it is that I have to do, I have to do perfectly and that is so difficult that I prefer to put whatever needs to be done off for as long as I can. That is when my husband gets impatient with me and says, just get it done. I need to do something about this but I am not sure what to do or where to go for help. Who is out there to support those struggling with perfectionism?
A: You have mentioned that both your husband and children have reacted to your sense of perfectionism but you have only hinted at how uncomfortable it is for you.
I cannot imagine how frustrating it is to do something over and over only to feel that what you have is less than perfect.
Perfectionism is an underlying fear that your personal future is in danger of disappointment. Your disappointment for perfectionism is likely drawn from parents who may have forgotten to praise and reward you for your achievements.
That child inside of you is thinking that if you had just tried harder or pushed toward perfection,that you would have gotten that approval.
Perfection is an impossible goal along with unrelented approval, and searching for either or both is bound to disappoint.
Your best bet for assistance starts with your family doctor. She can work with her psychiatric consult and local mental health team to make sure that you get the right medication to help you relax and find counselling to help you better manage the drive to perfection that is otherwise ruining your life.
Until you get some help, you might try to reframe your opening shots at those personal responsibilities challenging you.
Instead of trying for perfection, start aiming to do whatever you do just a little better. Instead of demanding approval from others, set a reasonable expectation that is worthy of a little more self love, the kind of self love and approval you generate from yourself.