Confessions of a Covert Perfectionist

It doesn't have to be perfect

It doesn’t have to be perfect (Photo credit: Thorsten Becker)

Unique. One of a kind. Original. Distinctive. I have always thought of myself as someone who is just that little bit different, special (my humble self is upset with me for using this word), inimitable—or at least hard to imitate.

Imagine my horror at discovering myself in the book “Overcoming Perfectionism” by Ann W. Smith. It was as if she were spying on my psyche, then exposing me to the world. Smith defines perfectionists as overt and covert. I am of the covert school of perfectionism. Without exception I have every one of her indicators—now some are more pronounced than others—but they pretty well sum me up. I have put the ones that fit me to a T in bold letters:

~ May have exceptional gifts and abilities that they are reluctant to pursue

~ Compare themselves to overt perfectionists and fall short

~ Have low expectations of those around them

~ Have high expectations of themselves, which they keep secret

~ May exhibit overt perfectionism when they excel at or enjoy a task or activity

~ Prefer being average and under the radar but secretly want to succeed

~ Are prone to procrastination, thinking they must do things right, so they have to wait and do it tomorrow (but not all procrastinators are perfectionists)

~ Worry about what others think of them

~ Act as chameleons, trying to find the right opinion or the right thing to say to avoid making a mistake

~ Underachieve to avoid pressure to succeed or competition with those who are better

~ Are inconsistent in achievements and keeping order—despite liking order and success, may reach a point where they have it, then sabotage themselves and fall back into disorder

~ Fear both failure and success and will sometimes resign themselves to being average rather than trying and failing.

Of course I am uncomfortable admitting to the fact that I have exceptional gifts and abilities, but I counter that with the true belief that everyone has exceptional gifts and abilities. Other than that I am thinking of suing Ms. Smith for invading my privacy (lol).

She says that not everyone is a perfectionist, but I think many of us have these attributes—I am just blown away with the fact that almost everyone hits the nail on the head for me (she did not include over usage of clichés though—guess that is my own addition—thinking a cliché is better than my own words at times.)

Perhaps you are an overt perfectionist—from what Smith says one of the main differences between the overt and covert is a matter of control.  Here are a few of her indicators for overt perfectionists:

~ May be born with a preference for order, but other factors contribute to a lifetime pattern of perfectionism

~ Have increased anxiety when they don’t have order around them, which may appear as frustration, anger or even rage

~ Are hard on themselves and may be even harder on others

~ May appear arrogant or judgmental, thinking that they know what is best and that everyone should do it their way

~ Fear failure and try to prevent it by being in control

Now that I know the symptoms, I will have to read the rest of the book, if not to cure myself of my overt perfectionism, at least to find balance in imperfection, which just so happens to be the subject of her last chapter.

Did you find yourself in any of the Indicators? Do you think you are overt or covert, or have you found a good balance?

Pacific City, Oregon

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Published in: on July 31, 2013 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment