Dr. Donna Phair

Clinical Health Psychologist


New Jersey Office
41 Reckless Place
Red Bank, New Jersey 07701



Perfectionism does not mean that you like everything to be orderly.  In fact, many people struggling with perfectionism can be very disorganized or messy. Perfectionism has to do with a mental organization that is influenced by the mind’s long list of should/rules.  (I should be on time, I should not make mistakes, I should know the answer to that question, I should talk fluently with no pauses, people should watch where they are walking, people should hold the door open for me, etc.).

This mental organization started out as a functional way for your mind to feel safe and in control of life or situations, and was initially very functional and productive.  However, over time, this conditioned mental behavior becomes an evil tyrant in that if a rule gets broken (or close to it), there is a negative shift in your internal environment.  This shift can be felt as irritability, anger, frustration and/or annoyance.  The shift can happen in a nano-second, where one moment you are in a fine mood, then a rule gets broken by you or another person, and whoosh, the monster has been released.  The Annoyance can be directed towards yourself or towards the others populated in your life.  If this is directed outward, having people over to your home is a trial in patience; your spouse’s little behaviors drive you bonkers.  And once you notice the “transgression”, you can’t stop noticing it.  This leads to snapping at people, not allowing others to do anything for you because you need it done your way.    If the annoyance is turned inward, there is self-anger/hatred, negative self-talk, and not being able to forgive yourself for the mistake.    

Additionally, procrastination can be a symptom of perfectionism.  The task at hand creates such resistance, even opposition at starting it that your mind tells you to do it at some future date, and the relief is wonderful.  So wonderful that your mind remembers the solution so that when you attempt to start the same task later, it becomes harder and the resistance is greater.  For example, I have had many patients that are very good writers, but it would take them until the last moment of deadline before starting the project. 

The good news about this perfectionism is that it can be a highly functioning personality style, once you learn how to make it work for you and not against you.  Taming the “beast” is not difficult, and over time, you learn how navigate your life without all the irritability or anger.