Striving for excellence is a good thing. Perfectionism, however, is an unrealistic and unrelenting expectation that you’ll excel at everything, always do and say the “right” thing, and be everything to everyone. People who struggle with codependency, tend to struggle with perfectionism as well. Perfectionism is one of the ways we try to feel in control and worthy. The problem is that when we expect the impossible from ourselves and others, we’re bound to be disappointed and frustrated. Our unmet expectations and drive for perfection can cause us a host of problems – a harsh inner-critic, nagging and criticizing others, rigid all-or-nothing thinking, overworking and difficulty relaxing, reluctance to try new things, fear of failure, ruminating, anxiety, and depression.
We try to earn our worthiness by being perfect
Most people who struggle with codependency grew up in chaotic families where there wasn’t a lot of safety and predictability. As a result, we tried to tame our anxiety by trying to control the world around us (people and situations). As children, we believed that we’d feel secure, loved, and accepted if we could prevent bad things from happening (like our parents from getting drunk or losing their jobs). So, we became overly responsible, controlling, and parentified children who took on adult responsibilities at an early age. Being perfect was an attempt to avoid criticism, rejection, and anger. We thought that if we could be perfect, we would be loved (or at least we’d avoid being belittled, hit, or rejected). For most of us, perfectionism began in childhood when being a perfect, compliant or helpful child was how we tried to earn our worthiness.