What is Perfectionism?
Are you constantly striving for perfection, never feeling like you’re good enough? Does everyone seem to be doing better than you are? Do you find yourself being overly self-critical and experiencing high levels of stress? If so, you may be struggling with the psychological trait of perfectionism. This intense desire to be flawless can lead to a constant feeling of pressure and dissatisfaction with oneself. While genetics may play a role in its development, growing up in an environment where perfection is expected can also contribute to this trait.
The Pros and Cons of Perfectionism
Perfectionism can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can drive you to achieve great things and reach the pinnacle of success. Perfectionists are known for their unwavering high standards, which can lead to higher levels of achievement and productivity. They tend to be more organized, detail-oriented, and efficient than non-perfectionists because they’re so concerned with doing things right the first time. Moreover, perfectionism has been linked to a range of positive outcomes such as better grades, higher academic success, and enhanced creativity and leadership skills among managers.
On the other hand, the obsessive drive to be perfect can hold you back from realizing your full potential. The constant self-criticism, self-doubt, and need for control can create an endless cycle of editing, rewriting, and modifying that prevents you from ever finishing a project. You might not present your skills, creativity, or product until you are entirely satisfied with the outcome, which may never happen. The result is that you might never be an accomplished writer, artist, or entrepreneur, even though you are much better at it than you give yourself credit for. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection become the enemy of your success!
How Perfectionism Impacts Mental Health
Perfectionism may seem like a noble pursuit, but you cannot ignore the toll it takes on your mental health.
The constant pressure to be flawless can lead to a myriad of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and low self-worth. Perfectionists are their own harshest critics, setting impossibly high standards for themselves and then berating themselves when they inevitably fall short. This endless cycle of self-criticism and disappointment can leave them feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and burnt out. Imagine constantly feeling like you’re not good enough, no matter how hard you try, and you’ll understand the emotional toll of perfectionism. The sad truth is that this self-imposed pressure can leave you feeling like a failure, even when you’re achieving great things. Don’t let perfectionism rob you of your mental health and well-being.
Powerful Coping Strategies for Perfectionists
Perfectionists are notorious for being overly critical of themselves when things don’t go according to plan. The key to breaking this cycle is self-compassion, which means treating yourself with kindness, empathy, and understanding. Just like you would with a close friend who is going through a rough patch, extend the same grace to yourself when you make mistakes or experience setbacks. Instead of beating yourself up, practice self-compassion by saying, “It’s okay, I’m human and I make mistakes too.” This can help reduce the intense pressure you put on yourself and prevent you from spiraling into negative self-talk.
Develop Healthy Habits
Perfectionists can benefit from developing healthy habits that can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. Engaging in regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough rest are just a few examples of habits that can improve overall health and well-being. Setting aside time to engage in activities that you enjoy, such as reading a book or taking a walk, can also help reduce the stress associated with perfectionism. By prioritizing self-care and healthy habits, you can reduce the likelihood of experiencing burnout and other negative consequences of perfectionism.
Challenge Negative Thinking
You might find yourself falling into the trap of negative self-talk and unrealistic expectations. To combat this, try challenging your negative thoughts by examining evidence that supports or contradicts them. Ask yourself, “Is this thought helpful?” or “Is there evidence to support this thought?” By challenging negative thinking, you can start to break free from the cycle of self-criticism and self-doubt.
Learn to Accept Mistakes
Perfectionists tend to view mistakes as failures, which can lead to feelings of shame and guilt. However, mistakes are a natural part of the learning process and can provide valuable opportunities for growth and self-improvement. Learning to accept mistakes as part of the journey can help reduce the pressure you put on yourself and allow you to embrace imperfection as a necessary part of the process.
Set Realistic Goals
Setting unrealistic goals is a common trap for perfectionists. Instead of striving for perfection, try setting realistic and achievable goals. This can help you avoid the disappointment and frustration that comes with falling short of unrealistic expectations. Celebrate small victories along the way and acknowledge progress, even if it’s not perfect. By setting realistic goals, you can reduce stress and enjoy the journey toward success.
When to Seek Professional Help
I actually think we all should be provided the means to see a professional on a regular basis, without having to wait until we clearly feel, and/or show, the symptoms of these burdens. Don’t you take your car to service for maintenance? Why do we have to wait to justify therapy?
That being said, it is especially important to seek professional help if you are experiencing these: Difficulty coping with stress,
suicidal thoughts, or self-harm behaviors (such as cutting).
Perfectionism may seem like a good trait, but it can easily become an unhealthy obsession. The pressure to meet one’s own high standards can be overwhelming, and perfectionists often expect the same level of perfection from others, which can create problems in relationships and at work.
The truth is, there’s no such thing as perfect. Or, rather, you are already perfect just the way you are. You don’t need to change or become someone else to achieve success or happiness. If you’re struggling with perfectionism, try some of the strategies mentioned above. Talk to someone you trust, engage in leisure activities without being competitive, and take a break from striving for perfection to enjoy life more fully. Life is too precious to be spent in constant self-criticism.”
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Editor’s note: The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It’s educational, not medical/diagnostic. Always seek advice from your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programme.