Of Perfectionists and Discouragement

Perfectionism and discouragement are a volatile cocktail.Perfectionism can be a brutal thing. Discouragement can be equally so. When combined together, they don’t cancel each other out; they embolden and strengthen each other. The discouragement that could be overcome at any other time is magnified by the perfectionism and vice versa. Discouragement and perfectionism are a volatile and vicious cocktail.

Why such a dreaded drink? Discouragement, in and of itself, can lead to a downward spiral. It can produce frustration and anger and worry. It can result in an exhaustion that is felt not only in the mind but in the body and soul. It seeps into everything and tarnishes whatever it touches. It is a poison.

If discouragement can produce all those feelings without the aid of perfectionism, adding perfectionism to the mix only makes the discouragement worse. The perfectionist already struggles with doubt and self-loathing and an inability to set realistic timeframes, goals, and standards. Discouragement only amplifies those things. Although the perfectionist usually can cope with them – particularly if she has lived with the perfectionism long enough and recognizes its malevolence – the perfectionist can lose that capacity when dealing with deep-seated discouragement. Reality and realistic expectations and truth dissipate under the withering glare of discouragement. The perfectionist is a no-good person who shouldn’t expect anything to change. Discouragement and low spirits are her lot in her life, and she should become accustomed to them.

She can’t; the perfectionist knows how absurd all those statements sound. She knows they’re ridiculous, and she feels like a whiny buffoon the moment one of them leaves his or her lips. Thus, the discouragement becomes a failure on the part of the perfectionist. Once that thought takes hold, the discouragement grows bolder. It settles in deeper because the perfectionist is discouraged about being discouraged. Even though she knows this is silly – everyone gets discouraged – she can’t help but feel she should be different. She should be strong and cheerful and kind and wonderful and ready for anything. When she realizes she isn’t, she has to make a choice: to let the skewed, malicious thoughts hold sway or to muster what strength she still has to remember she is a human being who struggles and, in so doing, to combat her perfectionism and the discouragement.

Image: Beshef (CC BY 2.0)


  1. […] Perfectionists tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves. They have the pressure of doing everything perfectly. If they learn to cope with that particular pressure, they then face another one: the pressure of accomplishing goals and projects with unrealistic time frames. If they fail on either front, they’re likely to tailspin. They lose whatever confidence they have. They berate themselves. They forget that they’re human. They forget that they’re not called to a standard of perfection but to a standard of grace. […]