“Our society is a glory-seeking, pride-oriented dynamic system, which influences each family to influence each newborn child to predicate his or her self-acceptance on where he or she lands in the self-glorification hierarchy.” We are taught to accept ourselves almost exclusively in terms of achievement or “success” as measured by money, prestige, power, sexual attractiveness or youth. Theodore Isaac Rubin, M.D. (1985), Reconciliations, p.3.
It is difficult to live in a society with our general cultural heritage and not be influenced by this perspective to some extent. But an over-focus on striving and pre-occupation with accomplishment coupled with a persistent denigration of whatever has been accomplished is a tell tale sign of perfectionism. Perfectionism literally tends to “run in families.”
The origins of perfectionism are usually found in childhood. The parental excess is the expectation that the child should be able to accomplish something that they are not yet developmentally capable of achieving. This is coupled by withholding acceptance until he or she can produce what is desired by the parent even though it is not possible to achieve at the time. The child responds with endless striving in an effort to comply with the parental imperative clinging to the belief that when they are able to accomplish what the parent desires they will receive the love and acceptance they desperately seek. Even as the child accomplishes feat after feat, he or she begins to refocus on the next accomplishment. Eventually, they learn to devalue their accomplishments as soon as they achieve them and are “compulsively” driven to “earn” the elusive acceptance they have sought all of their lives. In essence, they are driven to “always do better” to escape their own self-reproach and the resurfacing of their self-hate. Although they often achieve a lot of external “success” their accomplishments are quickly devalued and replaced by more striving. There is little joy but many trophies in this type of accomplishment. Underneath, perfectionism is driven by raw fear. The fear that one is not enough, and will never be enough, to earn the genuine love and acceptance that seems to continually elude them.