We often throw around “perfectionism” in somewhat of a vague way. We talk about it as if it’s a general quirk. But are we using the word correctly? Often, we have misconceptions of mental illness, so it’s important to recognize that we might not be entirely knowledgable. Perfectionism, in fact, is quite debilitating and harmful.
What is Perfectionism?
Perfectionism is defined by experts as the manifestation of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations. In addition, common perfectionist tendencies include chronic fear of failures and making mistakes and incredibly harsh inner talk. This can lead to in feelings of constant inadequacy. Furthermore, it is important to note that perfectionism has increased over the past few decades. Given the the high-stress societies many of us live in, this is not unexpected.
What Causes Perfectionism?
Various life factors can lead to perfectionism. These include inherent traits, family upbringing, and mental health conditions. Someone with an intrinsic fear of disapproving others chronic feelings of insecurity might become a perfectionist. It can also stem from childhood; caregivers and their behavior has a major impact. For instance, when caregivers lack kindness, warmth, and/or caring behavior, perfectionism may arise later in life. Finally, conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may result in perfectionism.
Downsides of Perfectionism
It is unsurprising that perfectionism can be harmful to mental health; that is, they tend to feel insufficient and hopeless. Perfectionists are thus often held back from being their most successful selves; ultimately, perfectionism can be self-defeating. More importantly, it is actually linked to many health issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This is to name a few. That being said, there are many ways to cope.
Managing Perfectionist Tendencies
The first thing to do is often the hardest: acknowledge the perfectionist within you. You can do this by closely and honestly examining your thought patterns and behaviors. Once you acknowledge and recognize the problem and its effects, you will be more capable of implementing coping strategies. You can then start making small changes to improve your mental health.
Although it is difficult to pull yourself out of the habitual and chronic perfectionist thought processes, it’s possible. Start by acknowledging simple thoughts – ask yourself, what is an alternative way to think about this? Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, actually sit down and write a list of pros and cons to being a perfectionist in your own life and examine how your tendencies are affecting you. Finally, start making meaningful changes by setting time limits, making priority lists, and carving out times for yourself and your personal life.
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