Have you ever had a particular project that you slaved over until every detail was perfect? Or maybe you were always the kid who handed her exam in last because you wanted to ensure that every question was answered precisely. If so, I get it. However, this age-old habit of perfectionism is sinister and may have held you back for many years. I know for a fact that it has held me back. I still grapple with this from time to time. It’s time to lift the veil and reveal this trait for what it truly is, troublesome.
The dictionary definition of perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfect. It is the drive to look, feel and be perfect. According to a report from Lewis University, there are three types of perfectionism: self-oriented, socially prescribed, and other-oriented perfectionism. We will focus on self-oriented perfectionism, defined as attaching irrational importance to being perfect, having unrealistic expectations of one’s self, and holding punitive self-evaluations.
Root Causes of Perfectionism
Let’s wake up together. Ditch the denial and heal from the madness, Yeah?
Although the root causes for perfectionism may not be the same for everyone, according to Psych Central, The root of perfectionism is believing your self-worth is based on your achievements
Perfectionism is often present when some combination of these factors exists:
- Rigid, high parental expectations
- Highly critical, shaming, or abusive parents
- Excessive praise for your achievements
- Low self-esteem or feeling inadequate
- Believing your self-worth is determined by your achievements
- Black-and-white thinking
- Efforts to feel in control
- Cultural expectations
Whether you or someone close to you struggles with perfectionism, it is critical to understand how devastating this condition can potentially be. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned as a recovering perfectionist.
5 Lessons on Perfectionism You May Not Have Considered:
- Perfectionism Is Bad for Your Physical Health
Constantly subjecting yourself to unrealistic high standards can hurt your physical health. According to health professionals can lead to physical ailments like high blood pressure, heart disease, and other stress-induced illnesses.
- Perfectionism is Bad for Your Mental Health
According to Vox.com, “ The rise in perfectionism is especially troubling because it has been linked to an array of mental health issues — a meta-analysis of 284 studies found that high levels of perfectionism were correlated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harm, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The constant stress of striving to be perfect can also leave people fatigued, stressed, and suffering from headaches and insomnia.
- Perfectionism Can Masquerade as Excellence
Perfectionists may simply view themselves as being an overachiever that prioritizes excellence. While it’s true that overachievers aspire to excellence, perfectionists aspire to perfection. Excellence is obtainable, while perfection is not. Excellence drives us to do our best work, while perfectionism drives us to do perfect work. There is a subtle difference. Someone who strives for excellence doesn’t berate themselves when they miss the mark. They “let it go” knowing they gave it their best shot. The perfectionist, on the other hand, endures a beating. The one who strives for excellence is free to enjoy the process even if they didn’t quite make it to the destination. The perfectionists who embody all or none thinking can only accept their anticipated destination as a victory.
- Perfectionism Can Cause You To Wear a Mask
Those who struggle with perfectionism need to appear perfect in every setting. As a result, they may hide their true problems and forfeit getting the help needed to live a fuller life.
- Perfectionism can Lead to Controlling Behavior
Many perfectionists are closeted control freaks. That’s right, I said it. They confuse “control” with self-reliance. Since they are “the captain of their own ship” they refuse to relinquish to others who may be far more qualified than them. For example, they may refuse to see a doctor regarding a health concern. Instead, they will “figure it out” on their own or with the help of the Internet. Perfectionists must be in control of everything and everyone in their orbit. In their mind, they are self-sufficient and do not need advice or the guidance of a licensed professional. They see themselves as “the expert”.
How to Break the Cycle Of Perfection
As you can see, perfection can be a real problem. Where you are on the spectrum will determine your strategy for breaking free. Here are a few helpful tips to get you on the right path.
- Examine Your Motivation: Why are you addicted to perfectionism? Are you trying to become a better person, or are you just trying to impress someone or meet the expectations of others? Neither of these reasons is very healthy, and both need to be examined.
- Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary: The moment you start using this word in a conversation, you’re already slipping down the slope of perfectionism. Remind yourself you don’t need validation from anyone. You’re good. Just be you.
- Consider Lowering Your Standards: One characteristic of perfectionists is setting the bar impossibly too high. You can still have high standards, just not perfect ones. You don’t have to give 100 percent to everything that you do. If you make a mistake along the way, give yourself grace. It’s “perfectly” okay to be a human being. One that makes mistakes and learns from them instead of punishing yourself for making them.
- Resist the Temptation Of Comparison: We all know that “comparison is the thief of joy”. Yet, we still do it. And no one does it better than a perfectionist. To slay this dragon you have to get a handle on the comparison trap.
- Get Some Quality Sleep: Perfectionists love to skimp on sleep because they are chasing an elusive goal, perfection. Sleep deprivation leads to poorer decision-making and a weakened resolve. To rise above perfectionism start with getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep allows you to do everything better.
Striving for excellence and being an overachiever can cause you to perform your best. You can enjoy the journey even if you miss the mark because you know deep inside that you did your best. You don’t berate and punish yourself. You give yourself the grace to get back in the saddle. Perfection, on the other hand, is an impossible goal. It’s safe to say that perfectionism is a trap and should be taken seriously. It is more common than you may think. It can sneak into your life and completely direct how you make every decision. Left unchecked it can evolve into full-blown physical and mental illness while undermining your joy and happiness. Let’s put perfectionism where it belongs, once and for all, under our feet!
Be well + prosper,
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