Are we so ‘perfect’?

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How do you feel when your work is seen eight times and there are still corrections to be done? You had briefed your understudies on what should be done and had given them a deadline. All they need now is the formal hardcopies for them to hold on to.

It occurs every time when tasks given during the ‘assignment week’ are due. All proposed papers are shown to the so-called ‘subject matter expert’ and also to the ‘internal exam examiners’ before being endorsed for use.

We can’t all be perfect, as the saying goes and that may not be such a bad thing.

Perfectionist not only put their own health at risk through tension and anxiousness, they make others miserable, too.

We see this on live TV show too where the ‘jury’ fired explosive outbursts at celebrities when they failed to live up to his or her expectations.

The ‘jury’ left many ‘students’ in tears or unable to continue, and probably sent their own blood pressure sky high.

Perfectionism should be categorised as a medical condition, alongside other behavioural problems, such as obsessive compulsive disorder.

Perfectionism is the need to be, or to appear to be, perfect.

A Canadian psychology professor has identified three types of perfectionists - self-oriented perfectionists (expect perfection of themselves), other-oriented perfectionists (demand perfection from other people), and socially-prescribed perfectionists (think others expect perfection from them).

Perfectionists not only harboured unrealistically high standards, but also judged themselves or others as not living up to their elevated expectations.

Perfectionists are persistent, detailed and organised high achievers.

Perfectionists vary in their behaviours: some strive to conceal their imperfections; others attempt to project an image of perfection.

But all perfectionists have in common extremely high standards for themselves or for others.

Certain forms of perfectionism can be linked to a host of emotional, physical and relationship problems, including depression, eating disorders, marital discord and even suicide.

Perfectionism is not yet officially recognised as a psychiatric disorder.

‘Should be considered an illness’

However extreme forms of perfectionism should be considered an illness similar to narcissism, obsessive compulsiveness, dependent-personality disorder and other personality disorders because of their links to distress and dysfunction.

Perfectionists reveal themselves in three distinct ways: - first, a ‘self-promotion’ style, that involves attempts to impress others by bragging or displaying one’s perfection (this type is easy to spot because they often irritate other people); second, by shunning situations in which they might display their imperfection (common even in young children); and third, a tendency to keep problems to oneself (including an inability to admit failure to others).

Perfectionism was based on an unrealistic view of life. It is part of a general stress problem and that the perfectionist is a highly stressed person.

It is difficult to work for perfectionists because they have unrealistic and unreasonable expectations of employees.

The easiest way to deal with a perfectionist is to question whether their demands are really reasonable and negotiate with them without becoming nervous or flustered.

Perfectionists can be helped, by making them see the pros and cons of their behaviour. They have to recognise their thinking and where they’re going wrong.

We should help them to modify their attitudes and make them more manageable. Just focus on their way of thinking, not their personality. Changing their thinking will change their behaviour.


AZIZI AHMAD is an educator.

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