“I have a hard time trusting.”  “I got burned once; never again!”  “I’ve put up a wall so people can’t hurt me.”   “I do all the work in my relationship.”  “My husband/wife needs therapy!”

These are statements made by someone who is a perfectionist.  How do I know?  Read the rest of the (imaginary) dialogue.

“I have a hard time trusting people.  People let you down or they don’t do what they say they’re going to do.  I trusted before and it hurts.  Now I just don’t trust easily.  People have to earn my trust”

“Oh, how do they do that?”

“You really have to follow through with what you say, and you can’t hurt me.  If I’m vulnerable with you, you can’t hurt me.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m being vulnerable and so you should not hurt me.”

“Why not?  What if I hurt you?”

“Why would you hurt someone who’s being vulnerable with you?”

“I wouldn’t try to, but maybe I would do it accidentally.  Maybe I wouldn’t mean to do anything to hurt you, but you might end up being hurt by me.”

“Well, you shouldn’t hurt me.”

“I’m not perfect.”


People are not perfect.  Relationships are not perfect.  Sex is not perfect.  Parents are not perfect.  Children are not perfect.  Your job is not perfect.  

Other markers of harmful perfectionism are: feeling never good enough; feeling unworthy; inability to tolerate criticism; holding on to a “miracle cure” (i.e., if s/he would only do “X” then life would be great); not being able to say “no”; feeling you have to do everything yourself (because you can’t count on others to do it right).

Perfectionism makes one feel stuck at the very least.  It can destroy relationships, stifle dreams, even contribute to physical symptoms of stress.  High levels of perfectionism is correlated with depression and anxiety.  It is not a trivial state of mind to be ignored!