Inside The Mind of a Perfectionist-Part 2: 11 Personality Traits of Perfectionism. How Many Do You Have?


We’re Talking About Perfectionism…

This is part two of a two-part blog series about the misconception of a perfectionist being someone who does everything effortlessly and perfectly…umm…wrong. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, click here real quick to get up to speed, then meet us back here. We’ll wait.

In Part 1, we identified six traits:

  1. You have trouble relinquishing control.
  2. You are driven…sometimes to obsession.
  3. You have difficulty making decisions.
  4. You need to be productive and never waste time.
  5. You procrastinate (having trouble getting started)
  6. You say “Should” a lot (you have demanding standards for yourself & others)

Let’s move on to discover the remaining 5 traits of perfectionism.

(Click the black + in each of the blue boxes below to see explanations of each personality trait)

“Don’t aim for perfection. Aim for ‘better than yesterday’.”
― Izey Victoria Odiase

In Part 1, we left off with me being frustrated that I hadn’t felt like writing a blog I needed to write. Do you think I got it together and ended up writing it the next day?

Nope. I wasn’t ready.

I didn’t have all the information I needed to do it right. If I didn’t write it, I couldn’t fail. So I didn’t write the blog that day.

I didn’t write it the next day either. Then we went out of town for a few days. When we came back, I had to catch up, so I didn’t write one that week. Maybe I needed to rethink the angle I was taking. I might go a different direction with it. I decided to do it next week when I was more prepared.

Trait #7. You Procrastinate (have trouble finishing)

You’re never completely confident that you’ve included every detail that you feel is important. There’s always that ‘one more thing’ to add that would make it “perfect” and in your mind feel complete.

You don’t like to fail at anything, so you tend to have trouble wrapping things up to instead “think about it a little longer”, or “do it better”. If you don’t finish, you avoid the possibility of being judged, but by continuing to delay the completion, you’re causing yourself additional anxiety.

Let’s talk about cleaning house

When my husband and I were dating we lived three hours from each other and spent a lot of time on the phone. We shared so many of the same interests it was uncanny, but when it came to our personalities and how we went about doing things, we were polar opposites.

One night during one of our phone calls when he told me he’d been vacuuming, I remembered him telling me the night before that he’d just finished dusting. I thought he might be some kind of clean freak, so I asked him what was up. He said he cleaned a little bit every night…tub and toilet one night, kitchen floor the next, etc.

To me (a perfectionist) that was just plain weird. If you mop the kitchen floor and the rest of the kitchen has to wait four days to be cleaned, the floor’s dirty again. Your house is never completely clean. If I can’t clean the house completely and thoroughly, I just “pick up” until I can. He goes to the store for one or two items several times during the week. I go once and shop for the week. He reads a couple pages of his book each night. I’ll stay up half the night to finish a book.

Trait #8: You have an "all or nothing" attitude

You think in extremes. You’re either all in, or you’re not in at all. You rarely dip your toe in. If you can’t do your best work, you don’t want to do it at all. If you don’t have all the tools you need for a project, you’re not likely to “make do” with the tools you have – it has to look like the picture, or it’s not good enough.

If you can’t catch on quickly to something you’re trying to learn, you’re likely to abandon it – if you can’t do something well, you’d rather not do it at all. 

This trait sucks when you’re attempting to kick a habit, ie. when I smoked. I’d go three days without a cigarette, and on day four when I caved and had one, I chose to smoke that whole pack and quit “fresh” the next day. Cold-turkey, no tapering off. Same with dieting. I’d do well for a week, fall off the wagon with one bowl of ice cream, spend the next week eating everything I’d been craving, then re-start my diet on Monday.

You’re hard on yourself

You’re not only hard on yourself, but on others. You expect a lot of yourself and others. You’re the first one to notice a spelling error. If you should make a spelling error yourself, you’re mortified.

Here comes the differences again between my hubby and I. When there’s something that needs doing at the house, a lot of times he’ll just get it done. Usually while he’s busy getting it done, I’m at my desk checking ideas on Pinterest, and then planning out the best way to go about it. I get annoyed at him because I feel he rushed through it and did a half-assed job. He gets annoyed at me for always over-thinking everything, and feels no matter what he does, it won’t be right. (We actually get along really well although I know I’m not making it sound that way 🙂 )

Trait #9: You can be overly critical

You’re usually the one to take on more than you can handle…but you give others the impression you can. Sometimes you take on extra tasks because you’re not confident others will do the job well enough. 

You don’t like making mistakes, and you’re disappointed in yourself when you make them. You’re critical (not always verbally, but in your head) of others doing a task poorly, and can easily get annoyed when  they make mistakes. You sometimes have unrealistic expectations and are always striving for perfection. It’s all about the end result. 

To-do lists are your friend

Do you make to-do lists? They’re helpful, right? I agree. I write  a bullet list every night of things I need to get done the following day. Once I complete something from my list, I highlight it in yellow.

We all know though that unexpected things pop up every day. So there’s a joke at our house. When I finish a chore, my hubby says, “Was that on your list? You better add it!” I realize that this is the most ridiculous thing ever, but it’s true. If I do something that wasn’t on my list, I actually do write it down just so I can highlight it as having done it. I love seeing my list at the end of the day with all my items highlighted in yellow.

Trait #10: You like precision

You have a very specific way you feel things should be done. You like order and consistency. You can scan something quickly and pick out the errors. You’re like a living, breathing “one of these things is not like the other” game. 

Your attention to detail comes in to play here. When decorating, you may move a piece of furniture a dozen times until it lines up with all the angles in the room and  your eye tells you it’s “just right”. 

This trait overlaps with Trait #11 below. Organization. Orderliness. Precision. Bottom line…you’re verrrrry picky.

How’s this for being overly concerned about details…

Perfectionists have “rules” they follow. They may not even realize they’re doing it. I know in my case, it’s not something I consciously do. It’s just the way my brain works. It’s like this:  Pretend I’m decorating my mantel. I’ll try it one way, then stand back…”nope”. I make some adjustments, stand back and look…turn my head to the right, then to the left. I look at it from a different room angle and squint one eye… I move one item to the left a fraction, and move something else forward. I eliminate, I change out, I add to. I repeat this process for as long as it takes until looking at it pleases me. That’s when I know it’s right..

My books are lined up in descending order by height in my bookshelves. When I was in high school, I alphabetized my record albums by artists and created tabs. I loved coloring when I was young, but if I colored outside the lines even once, I considered that page wrecked.

Planners or new calendars stress me out. I make my entries in light pencil until I’m sure I’ve entered everything, then I’ll go back and write it in pen. Scratch outs and liquid paper feel the same as coloring outside the lines to me.

My kids used to make fun of me, but now they choose to find the way I fold my towels endearing. I fold them in thirds and pat each towel after it’s folded. I put them in the linen closet with raw edges facing the back.

When wrapping gifts, my mom taught me never to tape a box. I taught my kids never to tape a box. They still don’t. The ribbon needs to match at least one color in the wrapping paper, and at the ends of the wrapped box, the paper ends need to match. (We wrap great looking gifts).

I unplug the toaster when we’re not using it, and hide the coffeepot cords and plugs. On my kitchen countertops, I put something in front of any exposed outlets to hide them.

It’s all about the details.

Trait #11: Excessive concern with details.

Your obsession about details can leads to procrastination. When working on a project, something small can trip you up. Until you get all the details worked out on that one thing to make it “just right”, you can’t make yourself move forward.

Being this excessively picky eats up a lot of time. I know that I’ve cut myself short on time needed to get to work, or get home from work, because I was high-centered on the details of some project I just couldn’t let go of. This is not intentional behavior, and it’s hard to just cut it off.  If you don’t go through your process, it can leave you with an uncomfortable or unsettled feeling. I have found that sometimes just walking away will break the hold that the obsession for details had on you.  

Just to be clear, Perfectionism is a personality trait, not a mental disorder. But as is with any obsessive behavior, any of these traits has the potential to lead to a mental disorder.

Perfectionism is a risk factor for obsessive compulsive disorder, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, eating disorders, social anxiety, social phobia, body dysmorphic disorder, workaholism, self harm, substance abuse, and clinical depression as well as physical problems like chronic stress, and heart disease.
There you have it. So…? Are you a perfectionist? Do these traits describe you or someone you know? I’d love to hear about your experience with Perfectionism, and any suggestions or insight you can share. Please comment below, or go to my Contact Me page and send me an email.
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