Have you observed your friend constantly trying to do things perfectly? Even after it is perfect, they are not happy? Has this thought crossed your mind, “my friend is a perfectionist”. You see that they work very hard on a project, but when it fails, they are extremely judgmental about themselves. A well-wisher may feel helpless in such a situation and wonder, “How do I help my perfectionist friend?”
You may ask, “What is wrong with being a perfectionist?” Since the word “perfect” is considered to be positive, being a perfectionist is not seen as an issue. However, there is also a negative side to perfectionism. Let us go ahead and understand what exactly is perfectionism and how it affects people’s life. We will also share some simple tips on how you can help people who are perfectionists.
Who Is a Perfectionist?
If you feel your friend is a perfectionist, it is highly likely that they want to be a certain way. If not, they feel sad. Such people will always try to achieve perfection, even in situations not in their control. However, when a person constantly tries to be too perfect, it is extremely unhelpful.
If your friend tries to do things without any mistakes ever, there is a high possibility your friend is a perfectionist. They may also try to achieve unrealistic standards, have fear of failure and delay completing their work. Many a time, they focus only on the result and feel bad if the goal is not completed.
Why Is Being a Perfectionist Bad?
The fact that the thought, “my friend is a perfectionist”, crossed your mind, shows that you have observed something negative. The biggest sign that being a perfectionist is unhealthy is – to worry more and achieve less. What we mean is that your friend “wants” to do something so perfectly that they don’t end up doing it. You will also observe that they delay doing things because they are constantly trying to make everything perfect.
People who are perfectionists try to control everything and make it perfect. Therefore , they feel a lot of negative emotions such as anxiety, stress and worry. Alternately, in some extreme cases, they may also feel depressed.
How Do I Help My Perfectionist Friend?
While we understand you may feel helpless and worried about your friend. There are some ways that they can be helped. Here is a list of ways you can provide support to your perfectionist friend.
Make Your Friend Aware of Their Behavior
The first step to helping your perfectionist friend is making them aware of the problem. This does not mean you yell or shout at them. When you observe an issue, have an honest conversation with them. Share how you feel their behavior is harming their life.
As a result of your honesty, your friend may show some anger or irritation towards you. Even if they get angry, be patient, calm and supportive of your friend. Do not take their reaction personally.
Understand Their Feelings
After you have had a conversation with your friend about their perfectionism, try to understand their side. With an open mind, understand how they feel about being perfectionists. Even if you don’t agree with their reasons, don’t criticize them. If you feel they are self critical, don’t judge them. Avoid making them feel they are bad. Instead, show them that there is a way out and you will always support them.
Be a Role Model to Your Perfectionist Friend
In addition to having an open and honest conversation, be a role model to your perfectionist friend. By making mistakes yourself, show them that it’s okay to not be perfect. Remember, your friend may have learnt perfectionist patterns of thinking while growing up. They feel it is normal and may not realise how it affects them. A positive and healthy role model like yourself can be the support and help they need.
Focus On Their Positives
Try to help your perfectionist friend focus on the positives in a situation. When things go wrong, ask them to write down three positives that went right. Alternately, you can also ask them to write the good things they learnt from the situation. For e.g., if your friend scores less marks on a paper, ask them to write what new things they learnt about the subject.
As mentioned above, people with perfectionism try to control everything, even things that are not in their control. And hence, they feel anxious, irritated and critical of themselves. If you help your friend focus on the positives, they will gain many benefits. Firstly, it will ease the pressure they put on themselves. This is because they will be able to see the things they can control. Secondly, they will learn to accept criticism without questioning themselves. Lastly, they will understand the negative impact perfectionism has on their life.
Set Healthy Goals
It is highly likely that your friend sets goals which are very difficult to achieve. In order to set healthy goals, your perfectionist friend needs to understand that the goals they set for themselves are unhealthy. You can help them by explaining how their goals are harmful. First of all, perfectionists plan goals based on the expectations of others. Secondly, their focus is to be the best at all times. Thirdly, they constantly pay attention to the end result and not the process. Lastly, they take success or failure as a question of their self-worth.
If this sounds like your friend, here are some ways you can help your perfectionist friend. Help them set goals based on their wants and desires. Let the goal be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Each goal should be set based on these criteria. Ask them to keep a note of weekly, monthly and yearly goals in this format. By practicing SMART goal setting, your friend will be able to reduce his worry.
Seek Professional Help
Even after trying all the above-mentioned tips, if there is no change, don’t give up. You can seek professional help for your perfectionist friend. A psychologist will teach your friend a healthy way of handling their perfectionism. With the help of a psychologist, they will understand their behavior in detail and find it easy to work on it. When your friend seeks professional help, your role will be to provide support and help them through the journey.