Yes, there is a typo in the headline of this article. To most, it is a mistake; to a perfectionist, it is unforgivable — a reason to stop reading
While some might look at the label "perfectionist" with envy, Dr. Pfifferling sees its dark side — one in which surgeons may burn out, become physically sick, ruminate incessantly, suffer from stress disorders and, yes, sometimes take their own lives.
"... One of the most common vulnerabilities of any surgeon is the issue of perfectionism," he says. "It is a vulnerable, fragile, emotionally-loaded topic."
Dr. Pfifferling, who counsels and coaches physicians on perfectionism and other psychological issues, says perfectionism is more than an annoyance or minor character flaw; it is an adaptation to not being okay with oneself.
"Patients want [perfection]; society wants it; medical malpractice attorneys want it; the public wants it; media wants it. Everybody wants perfection, which, of course, cannot be delivered," Dr. Pfifferling says.
Cosmetic surgeons are dealing with people's physical identification of themselves. Patients often come to cosmetic surgeons voluntarily. Yet, the ideal cosmetic result is relative and often hinges on perception.
"If I am the patient, I want someone who is totally committed in every pore of their body to doing the best for me. Of course, we define [what 'the best for me' is] very differently," Dr. Pfifferling notes. "The cost to the doctor is irrelevant to the patient. They want the doctor to always be 'on,' never to sleep, never to rest, always to be focused on the absolute cutting-edge 'superb-ness.'"
But the costs of delivering what is essentially a lie (no one is perfect, after all) are high.
"These people can never rest. They are always looking over their shoulders and comparing themselves to some other set, some person, some data or some clinical outcome. They are hard on themselves and on their staffs. They are prone to paranoia and distress. And, of course, anyone who is that hypercritical and distressful is going to be a loner. They are not going to have a close set of confidants who are honest and caring and reassuring and comforting, because they are hard to deal with," Dr. Pfifferling explains.
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