Perfectionism: Why You’re Obsessed With It


Is your life ensconced in perfectionism?

Horrors upon horrors!

You have some work to do on yourself.

No worries though; you have plenty of company.

My Issues With Perfectionism

Until fairly recently, I had some significant control obsessions within my own house; issues that pointed to perfectionism tendencies with a capital “P.”

Weirdo,” you’re thinking.

Careful there. You likely have significant issues regarding order, tidiness and cleanliness too.

Most of us want our personal environments to be a loving reflection of our lives and who we ‘are.’

That can (and does) result in behaviours that are a bit twisted at times.

My Own Perfectionism – Revealed

I was a tad obsessed for a time (okay, a long time) about the way my decorative pillows were lined up on couches and chairs.

Yeah, that’s it. It’s true. Don’t laugh, mock or criticize.

Orderly pillow placement created harmony and symmetry in my living space (or so I believed.) This was a futile obsession, given that I was encased within family life, rife with busy sticky young children, messy pets, chaos.

Those pillows were routinely out of alignment. Pretty much all of the time.

Puffing up those accessories, straightening them out, then doing it over and over again made me feel that – yes! – I had a modicum of control over my existence. Straight and arranged pillows was a signal that I had a calm and orderly life.

Hope you raced to a therapist, you’re saying.

No, I was able to come to sensible conclusions about this behaviour on my own, thank you.

The Epiphany

I came to realize that I have no true control over pillow placement.

I came to understand that this obsession for ‘order’ was a veiled form of perfectionism, a desire to achieve ‘perfect’ where perfect will never – ever – exist.

Perfectionism (as a chronic quest) is a sign of low self-esteem. Why? Because nothing will ever be perfect. Not here there or anywhere.

And here’s a dilly:  Paul Hewitt, PhD, in more than 20 years of research, has found that perfectionism correlates with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health problems.

“I don’t think needing to be perfect is in any way adaptive,” he claims.

So you likely believe that my pillow issue was crackers. I’m betting that you have your own set of eccentric and weird household maintenance issues.

And this may appear to be funny. But maybe it’s not funny at all.

What do your household habits and behaviours say about you? Are you forever shrieking, whining or barking at loved ones to ensure that your household ‘order issues’ are properly observed?

The Solution

Ask yourself some questions.

What sets you off in your own home, about your own home? Perfectionism often starts at home.

What effect does your perfectionism have on your children? The effect is not healthy, productive or remotely peaceful. The self-esteem role modelling and message – everything must be perfect – trickles down to vulnerable others and sets their behaviour too.

Obsessions with order tells us a lot about ourselves. If we are honest enough to admit to them. If we even know what those issues are.

These fixations on ‘perfect’ lead to other fixations.

Making mistakes, for example, is a common perfectionistic terror. I talk about worrying about daily errors, here.

What are your perfectionistic tendencies? Can you admit to them? Can you begin to let some of them go?

Full disclosure is one of the first, proactive steps to relieving and addressing stress.

Perfectionism – whether it is in terms of decor, decorum or daily habits – is a sign that you are struggling mightily with reality, and enduring a battle with yourself.

Once you know this, observe this, and admit this, you are on your way to letting it go.



This entry was posted on Monday, July 30th, 2012 at 6:00 am and is filed under Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.



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  1. July 30th, 2012 | Jill Ellis says:

    No unmade dishes, no dirty dishes – has been my mantra for years.

    With two young testosterone-pumping mess makers and one hoarder (now ex) spouse, my house never seemed to be clean. But if these two things were done, then I felt better among the piles of clutter.

    These are controllable – for the most part (unless a child or spouse was still sleeping when I left for work and ‘forgot’ to make his bed before I came home)- but the other one isn’t.

    It is completely weather related, and we all know we don’t control that!

    I hate, hate, hate looking out through dirty windows, so whenever weather is warm enough they get a clean. BUT we live in Canada where that is not possible for six months at a time.

    So for half a year, I sit and stare out through the windows, specifically late afternoon when the fading sunlight hits them just right and the streaks and spots are glaring at me.

    Hit HATE button here.

  2. July 30th, 2012 | abby says:

    Jill: An excellent Stress Bubbles Self-Disclosure! What I find fairly hilarious (in contrast) is that I gaze happily through dirty windows approximately 362 days a year (I don’t do windows and The Spouse doesn’t either, plus or minus a few efforts) and it doesn’t raise my ire one little whit. I have dogs and cats and sundry licking the windows, breathing heavily on them, pawing them. And unmade beds? Don’t get me started, but not on my Top Ten (make that Top 50.) Aren’t we all so different?

  3. July 30th, 2012 | Shari says:

    I am a little nervous….This is my first share. But boy can I relate to the control issue thing around the house. And you are right Abby, it’s the only control that I do have. And I take it to heart. I was expecting company last week (my in-laws!) and I felt so out of control because my cleaning lady had quite (surprise, surprise) over a month ago, that I paid a professional cleaning company a ridiculous amount of money to clean my house….so that my mother in-law would be proud of me, I think! Plus, I have to admit that I loved being home while my house felt so clean….It only lasted a few days and I was all over everyone, including my 20 month old granddaughter, not to make a mess. It’s back to normal again so now I straighten all of the shoes in the mudroom…..and the towels in the bathroom….it just makes me feel like I am in control. There, I did it!

  4. July 31st, 2012 | abby says:

    Shari: congrats on your first share. Shall I send you a cheese basket? Can I just ask: what was it like having your house so utterly clean and tidy for a few days? I can picture surfaces gleaming and sparkling? But how ironic that it also caused so much stress? I can picture you trying to keep the house pristine amidst young adults and a baby…oh my, I can feel the stress bubbles in my own stomach, right now. I say get all the help with cleaning that you can? Or, is it not worth it in the end when you live with other people? You tell me. I need a maid. Still waiting.

  5. July 31st, 2012 | deb says:

    Since Jill commented on windows, I’ll continue with that topic.
    Previous to this home, our “front” windows had shear curtains. Moving here, we purchased heavier and nicer ones.
    My darling hubby would open the curtains wide each morning …and I would cringe. Being at home with wee kids while he went to work – I didn’t care to have every Tom, Dick and/or Harry looking in at what we were playing, eating, …etc.

    One day I washed, and put up the old shears underneath the beautiful new curtains. There are times when hubby still opens both sets, but, for the most part, we have learned to accept each other’s choice.

    Does this count as a burst stress bubble?

  6. July 31st, 2012 | abby says:

    Deb: That is a stress bubble alright, and you and Jill have opened a whole new set of bubbles with this windows/curtains cringe worthy area of home maintenance. You’re getting a bit into issues of privacy here too. Don’t you dare get me started on the privacy issue, but of course I will, in the near future. How about my husband, who doesn’t like the way I CLOSE the curtains, in that they have to be pleated when closed, just so? And when he opens them, I don’t like the way he leaves the fabric inside the frame of the window? Oh no! Seems like we’re just touchng the surface here…what a load of stress bubbles we have within our own castles! And…no surprise there!

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