The problem with perfectionists, albeit not the only one (This line is becoming a theme.), is that they’re demanding. They demand a lot from themselves. They sometimes demand a lot from others. They demand, demand, demand.
Most perfectionists acknowledge how demanding they are; at least, I do. The perfectionists who acknowledge their demanding natures then respond to them, sometimes correctly, more often inappropriately. As best I can tell, the responses fall into one of three categories:
- Demanding too much. The perfectionist who demands too much of herself becomes plagued with guilt and self-doubt. Any time she isn’t working, she’s worried about not working. She isn’t “present” because she’s focused on the demands she’s placed upon herself. She’s writing her to-do list in her mind. She’s thinking about what she needs to accomplish when she gets home from a social gathering. The usual result is that she works more, plays less, and burns out. Her demands don’t affect her solely; oh, no, her demands have an ever-widening ripple effect. Even if she doesn’t force her demands onto other people, she ends up isolated and alienated. As Redhead Writing notes, the perfectionist never is invited to the pool party. If she does force her demands – her expectations of time frames and her standards – onto other people, the end result is the same. She’s left alone.
- Demanding too little. The perfectionist who acknowledges her demanding nature may take the opposite tact. She demands too little from the people around her although she still will demand too much from herself. In this scenario, the perfectionist is worried about being perceived as demanding or nagging and, thus, never says what needs to be said. She, again, ends up alone. Not saying what needs to be said results in projects not being finished and businesses failing. It causes relationships to end, often without any closure for the perfectionist who was trying to give the other person space and room to breathe.
- Acknowledging, confronting, and overcoming her nature. Some perfectionists admit to their demanding natures and attempt to live between demanding too much and demanding too little. It’s difficult; the perfectionist who is attempting to correct her thought patterns and behavior has to learn the meaning of grace, and that concept is hard for a perfectionist to understand. The perfectionist has to apologize and ask for forgiveness when she fails (and she will fail), which is yet another difficult thing for a perfectionist to do. In the mind of the perfectionist, an apology is an admittance of a failure, and a perfectionist isn’t supposed to fail. A perfectionist is supposed to be perfect. Even if the perfectionist understands the folly of such a statement – no one is perfect – she will still struggle to ask for forgiveness. She has to fight her very nature in order to do so.
What do you think? Do perfectionists demand too much? If you are a perfectionist, how do you deal with the demands you place upon yourself and others?
Photo: Marcelo Duarte (CC BY-NC 2.0)