Look for your perfectionistic thinking
Several distortions of reality may be involved with your perfectionism. Black and white thinking (also called ‘all-or-nothing thinking’) is common. You view things in extremes: total success v. total failure, superb v. lousy, right v. wrong, perfect v. useless. Over-generalising can lead you to think that because high standards are possible, ‘perfection’ is too; or that one or a few mistakes means you are ‘always making mistakes.’
The real problem, though, is demanding – jumping from the belief that because perfection is possible, therefore you should or must achieve it – coupled with the idea that if you do not, this reflects on your self-worth (self-rating) or will lead to dire consequences and unbearable discomfort (awfulising and discomfort-intolerance).
Look for any variations of the following:
‘Whatever I do should be to the highest possible standard if I am to justify my existence or see myself as a worthwhile person.’
‘I must minimise any risk of making a mistake or turning out a shoddy result – because this would prove me to be useless, lazy, or careless.’
‘To feel all right about myself, I need to have other people see me as careful, concerned, hard-working, and successful.’
‘It would be terrible if other people saw me as less than competent.’
‘I could not stand to think I had failed or not done my best.’
Also involved may be thoughts about your life becoming disorganised and chaotic – the results of which would be disaster, discomfort and misery:
Every problem should have an ideal solution, and I cannot rest till I find the right one.
To avoid disaster, I must keep my life predictable and have everything under control.
It would be dreadful and frightening if my life and circumstances were to get out of control because I stopped striving.
At all costs, I must avoid the emotional discomfort I would feel if I failed to maintain my standards.
From perfectionism to excellence