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 educated. Perfectionism, in fact, is quite debilitating and harmful to an individual’s health and wellbeing.
What is Perfectionism?
Perfectionism is defined by experts as the manifestation of an individual having excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations. In addition, common perfectionist tendencies such as constant failures of making mistakes and incredibly harsh inner talk. This can result in feelings of constant failure and inadequacy. Furthermore, it is important to note that perfectionism has increased over the past few decades. In the fast-paced, technology-driven culture we live in, this is not unexpected.
What Causes Perfectionism?
Many factors in one’s life can lead to perfectionism. These can 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. When caregivers are lacking in kindness, warmth, and/or caring behavior, perfectionism might arise later in life. Finally, conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may result in perfectionism.
Downsides of Perfectionism
It is entirely unsurprising that perfectionism can be harmful to mental health; that is, an individual with perfectionist tendencies will likely constantly feel inadequate 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 various 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 examining your thought patterns. Once you can acknowledge and recognize the problem and its debilitating effects, you will be more capable of implementing coping strategies. You can start making small changes to improve your mental health.
Although it is difficult to pull oneself out of their habitual thought processes, it’s definitely possible! Start by acknowledging the perfectionist thoughts and when you do, 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 change by setting time limits, making priority lists, and carving out set times for yourself and your personal life.
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