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How to Spot a Perfectionist

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Perfectionists expect flawlessness and anything apart from that is despicable. They are never fully satisfied with who they are and what they do. Perfectionism has negative consequences that range from low self-esteem to obsessive behaviors. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), not to be confused with OCD, develops from perfectionism and it affects a person’s task-completion and flexibility with life; people with OCPD pay attention to the smallest of details in their surroundings which makes activities of daily living difficult. This could then lead to pessimism and depression. Although the behaviors of perfectionists may be hard to understand, we have to remember that most of these people do not even realize they have a problem. We should definitely help these people overcome perfectionism, instead of avoiding them altogether.

In addition to themselves and others, perfectionists also notice every flaw in their environment. They cannot stand disorder and untidiness. To test this, find a large desk and place various papers, books, pencils, and pens on it but leave a small area uncovered. Make sure to arrange the pencils and pens in different directions and have slanted stacks of books. You can place the papers in random piles and crumple some sheets. Give the suspect a very easy quiz to work on at the desk. If the person starts organizing the desk before even working on the quiz or during the quiz, then the suspect is a perfectionist. But if the messy desk does not bother the person at all, then proceed to the next test.
After they finish the quiz, collect it and grade it. The quiz should have been simple enough that the person answered all of the questions correctly. However, to test the suspect’s reaction to failure, mark several questions wrong and give the quiz back with a terrible grade. A perfectionist would ask for an explanation to the grade they received and the person will be extremely affected by the results of the quiz.

Due to their high expectations, perfectionists think that they must be better than anyone else in everything they do. Defeat is not an option for them but if they do get defeated, they will be really disappointed in themselves. To see if this applies to the suspect, tell the person that of all the people who took this quiz today, his or her score was the lowest. Note whether or not the suspect reacts to the news and how the suspect reacts.

The fourth test is similar to the first but this time the suspect will be completely focused on their surroundings. To start, find a hallway with pictures hanging on the walls. You can always add your own pictures if there are not enough. Tilt one of the frames 45 degrees to the right or left. Then, walk down the hallway and ask the suspect to describe what they see in every picture. When you and the suspect reach the slanted picture frame, a perfectionist would not be able to tolerate seeing it tilted and out of line. The person will fix it and you will have your proof.

Perfectionism is not something that should not be taken lightly. It can rule people’s lives and they will suffer from the incredibly high standards they set for themselves. Even one tiny mistake can ruin a perfectionist’s whole day. But if we can help these people early on, we can decrease the probability of them having anxiety and depression. Honestly, it is sad to think that these people spend every possible second in search of something that is unattainable in this world – perfection.



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