We discussed some common perfectionism behaviours in Week 1, when we talked about what perfectionism looks like. Broadly speaking, perfectionism behaviours can be divided into two categories. First are the things you do more of as a result of your perfectionism, and second are the things you do less of. Behaviours in both categories are often unhelpful and can be life limiting in the long run. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.
Things you do more (excess behaviours)
Behaviours that you do more of as a result of your perfectionism can be considered ‘excess behaviours’ or ‘unnecessary extras’. Of course, you’d probably argue that these behaviours are necessary, because they are intended to help you achieve the high standards you set for yourself. However, to other people, they might appear to be excessive or over the top. For example, Rachel’s checking behaviour in the above example could be considered unnecessary.
Other examples include:
- Excessive checking
- Redoing tasks
- Focussing on minor details
- Correcting yourself or others
- Extensive planning
- Organising and list making
- Dwelling on mistakes
- Reassurance seeking
- Criticising yourself or others
- Micromanaging others
What are the things that you do more of as a result of your perfectionism? Although they are intended to be helpful, these behaviours are often counterproductive. After all, we know they feed the perfectionism cycle. If you have any doubt about their usefulness, refer back to the ‘cons’ of perfectionism that you listed in the Pros and Cons Exercise from Week 1. This should help to remind you of the reasons why these types of behaviours aren’t serving you well.
Things you do less (avoidance behaviours)
Behaviours that you do less of as a result of your perfectionism can be considered ‘shortages’ or ‘avoidance’ behaviours. Most likely, your perfectionism prevents you from doing certain things that are important to you. For example, many other perfectionists sacrifice things like leisure time and fun. Instead, they put all of their time and effort into work and achievement related tasks, with the hope that success will bring happiness at the end. What do you miss out on or say “no” to because of your perfectionism?
In addition, perfectionists often try to meet their high standards and avoid ‘failure’ by delaying or avoiding tasks altogether. The belief underlying these avoidant coping strategies is that “you can’t fail if you don’t try”. Avoidance is most likely to occur when you feel as though you won’t be able to perform at your best. Procrastination is another form of avoidance, where you put off a task or wait until the last minute before getting started. You delay the task and wait until the circumstances are ‘just right’ before taking action, which rarely ever happens.
Other examples include:
- Avoiding challenging situations
- Declining invitations to events
- Disengaging from activities (e.g., avoiding work, pulling out of a course)
- Not meeting deadlines
- Delaying important decisions
- Withdrawing socially
- Giving up hobbies
- Prioritising work/achievement over fun
- Sacrificing time for leisure/relaxation
- Neglecting self-care
All of the above behavioural deficits can have serious consequences for your health and functioning. For example, your study grades may decline or you may face disciplinary action at work. Your relationships may suffer as a result of prioritising ‘success’ over meaningful connections. A lack of balance in life is also a risk factor for mental health problems, stress-related physical illnesses, and burnout. In other words, perfectionism behaviours often put us in a worse position in the long run.