Perfectionism Can Cause Your Family Pain

One good reason to abandon perfectionism, or at least try to get it under control, is that your family and friends will love you more for it. Many pleaser-perfectionists find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They want to please; they work very hard at pleasing twenty-four hours a day, but at the same time they find themselves “getting on the case” of their spouses, children, or colleagues. In a sense, these perfectionists are “pleasers in reverse,” controllers who can make life miserable for everyone within earshot.

Thirty-two-year-old super pleaser Jill, perfectionist to a “P” and a firstborn daughter, had married at age twenty and had four children by the time she was twenty-eight. For the past seven years she had stepped into being secretary, office manager, and general girl Friday in her father’s insurance business. In effect, she ran her dad’s business for him so efficiently that he spent a great deal of time trying to bring his golf game into the low eighties.

A first impressions, Jill came across as “very together.” She had striking black hair and was very neatly and smartly dressed. She showed none of the impatience of a Type A personality. In fact, she came across as a very relaxed, sensitive woman who would make a good wife or friend.

But after a few sessions, I found another Jill behind the quiet smile and sensitive demeanor. Her sensitivity to others was really designed to hide her true feelings, which could be summed up in one word: anger. Jill felt she had to be nice to everybody, that it was her lot in life to please everyone.

When all was said and done, one of the keys to helping Jill change her life-style and cut back on her perfectionism was showing her that she was setting her goals far too high. In fact, her goals were out of sight. Not only was she running her father’s business, but she was also doing everything on the homefront as well, and she had problems entrusting anything to her husband, Manny. But when it comes to goal setting, I believe a good rule of thumb is that goals should be just out of reach, but never out of sight. We all want to stretch ourselves with worthy goals, but taking on too much can turn your “to do” list into a tyrant. You wind up trying harder and harder and enjoying less and less. And that stress almost always comes out on friends and family.

If that’s you, you can chose to turn over a new leaf, like Jill, who finally took a stand against her father and hired a babysitter/housekeeper with the raise he gave her. She realized that she didn’t have to do everything herself.

Don’t let yourself, and your family, be trapped by perfectionism. Believe me, taking a load off of yourself will take a huge load off of them too.
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