People want to do their best when they start a task.  Often they have a self-imposed goal, which they may or may not achieve. The average person sets an attainable goal and feels satisfaction when he achieves it. If he makes a mistake, he can learn from the error and use his knowledge to improve.

In contrast, a perfectionist usually sets a goal he is unlikely to meet. The pressure of failing and anticipating mistakes can result in poor self-esteem, nervousness, depression, isolation and other mental and physical health problems. Below are some ways perfectionists think and behave:

• Perfectionists dread failure and use self-imposed pressure to strive for perfection.
• Perfectionists do not set reasonable goals.
• A perfectionist focuses on his result rather than the joy of participating in a task.
• Perfectionists seek approval from others instead of focusing on their own desires.
• Making mistakes causes perfectionists to feel anxious.
• Some perfectionists try to appear flawless by hiding their mistakes.

How does perfectionism lead to mental and physical health problems?

Striving for perfection can make tasks pertaining to school, work and other aspects of life worrisome and difficult. For example, an employee or student may be less likely to seek help when he makes mistakes because this requires admitting he made them. An employer who is a perfectionist may have trouble retaining employees because his demands may be unrealistic. A perfectionist may feel isolated because his expectations can cause his relationships to deteriorate. No matter the situation, the failure to achieve perfection can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and low self-worth.

If you are suffering from anxiety and stress because of your belief that you must achieve perfection, you may need help. I am a licensed counselor who serves the Philadelphia suburban area. I can help you feel more positive and successful by teaching you how to reassess your goals, so they are manageable and attainable. You will also learn how to focus on enjoying an activity instead of just evaluating your success by the outcome. I can also assist you in putting failure into perspective. As you learn to change your goals and accept your performance, you will learn to value yourself and get more joy out of life.