Perfectionism is a trait many of us cop to coyly, maybe even a little proudly. (“I’m a perfectionist” being the classic response you say in a job interview when asked to name your biggest flaw — one that you think isn’t really a flaw — for example.) But real perfectionism can be devastatingly destructive, leading to crippling anxiety or depression, and it may even be an overlooked risk factor for suicide, argues a new paper in Review of General Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association.
The most agreed-upon definition of perfectionist is simply the need to be perfect, or to at least appear that way. We tend to see the Martha Stewarts and Steve Jobs and Tracy Flicks of the world as high-functioning, high-achieving people, even if they are a little intense, said lead author Gordon Flett, a psychologist at York University who has spent decades researching the potentially ruinous psychological impact of perfectionism. “Other than those people who have suffered greatly because of their perfectionism or the perfectionism of a loved one, the average person has very little understanding or awareness of how destructive perfectionism can be,” Flett said in an email. But for many perfectionists, that “together” image is just an emotionally draining mask and underneath “they feel like imposters,” he said. Read more[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]