We live in a fast-changing, often competitive world and it’s not uncommon for us to feel the pressure to keep up and do our best not to get left behind. In a way, it’s good to be motivated to always strive for excellence. You reach your highest potential by doing so. You learn new things and develop your abilities.
But what if that need to be on top begins to rule your life? Life becomes an endless pursuit of flawlessness and failure is not in any way welcome. That’s where perfectionism comes in.
Perfectionism Vs. Trying To Be At Your Best
Before anything else you have to understand that perfectionism is not equal to the healthy behavior of striving to be your best. You can set high standards for yourself. That is okay. But you must also understand that you can not always do things perfectly. Failure is a part of learning. It is through failure that you learn the ropes and does better.
But perfectionism does not recognize that so it is not the pursuit of healthy growth and development. Perfectionism causes individuals to hide in the shield of protection against the fear of failure, judgment, and shame. It’s all or nothing for you. Anything less than perfect is not acceptable. Perfectionism does not accept failure, defeat, or mistakes.
The Downside of Perfectionism
When we become unhealthily caught up in perfectionism we begin to set unrealistic goals and start to be unkind to ourselves. Psychologist Dr. Paul Hewitt and a colleague Dr. Gordon Flett found out in more than 20 years of research that perfectionism correlates with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other psychological problems.
Perhaps you have imagined that you would be happier if you have the perfect set of teeth or the perfect body measurements. Perhaps you would be happier if you are at the top of your class and not second to the best. There’s always something lacking and life becomes an endless pursuit of what isn’t there.
You always want to say the right things. You are preoccupied with keeping all your things neat and tidy. There are so many things you need to be on guard of. You can just imagine how exhausting and frustrating that can be not only for you but also for the person around you.
As you become misguided in your pursuit to be the best you can possibly be, this can result in you also expecting the same from your family and your relationships be it at home or at work. You become overly controlling and your rigidity pushes others away and can isolate you from other people – even your loved ones. Perfectionism does not only destroy your relationships, but it can also cause you low self-esteem, rob you of your chance to enjoy life, and diminish your sense of peace.
Am I A Perfectionist?
Do you suspect yourself of being a Perfectionist? Here are a couple of signs you just might be:
- Too much focus on control
- All or nothing attitude (I cannot do something unless I do it perfectly)
- You cannot see the beauty in the process of learning. The perfect end product is all that matters.
- Mistakes for you mean you are weak and inadequate
- You take so much time completing a task when others can do it fast. And it is all because of all your nitpicking.
- You can only be happy if everything is according to your standards
- Too much focus on what is wrong or lacking
Is this you? Then slow down. Take a deep breath and give yourself a hug. It must have been so tiring always wanting to be in control. I know you may already have an idea that something is wrong. But there’s no need to blame yourself. Perfectionism doesn’t happen overnight. There are reasons you feel the way you feel.
Understanding the Perfectionists in You
Do you want to change? Are you tired of your endless pursuit of perfection? There’s a chance for change. Here’s how:
Be More Mindful of Your Tendencies
Perhaps the first step, which can also be the most difficult, is to accept that you are a “perfectionist,” and it’s not healthy. Recognize the difficulties you are facing and how you are being negatively affected by that need to be always perfect.
Understanding the root cause of your behavior
Perfectionists are afraid of judgment, failure, and not being accepted. And there are many reasons such as:
- Having parents who are either aware or unaware that they are setting perfectionism as the standard. Each mistake equates to punishment (shaming, name-calling, silent treatment, even physical punishment). Praises are reserved only for achievements, and not for any progress or efforts.
(Do you still thirst for recognition and praise? Perhaps it’s time to be kind to yourself. Celebrate yourself. Not only for your triumphs but also for the failures that make you human.)
- Perfectionism can be a defense mechanism against unsafe or chaotic environments growing up.
(Perhaps you grew up poor and now you are all grown up and pushing yourself too hard to succeed and always be perfect so you will never experience hardship again. Achieve your goals but still give yourself room for setbacks. As they will always be a part of life (even the best and most hardworking people have setbacks).
- It could be a defense against bad experiences you are afraid of happening again should you make a mistake.
- Very high, often unattainable standard of success and even beauty set by some culture or some society in general.
- OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
Whatever the root causes of your perfectionism, the most important thing is self-awareness and addressing the problem step by step. Some causes like OCD may need professional help to diagnose and treat.
Practice being more mindful
The world can often be cruel and unkind, and the least that you can do is ensure that you are a kind friend to yourself. Love yourself and set aside some time to take care of your mental health.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable and think about the things that are hurting you and how you can free yourself from them. Take small but consistent steps towards healing. Set small and attainable goals so you wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
If you don’t know how to begin there is help available. One unconventional treatment is through Intuitive Healing. It can help you address the emotional root tied to the need for control and perfectionism, and release those overwhelming emotions that fuel your controlling behavior layer by layer from your mental, emotional and physical body.
Give yourself a chance to attain the mental clarity you need to live more mindfully. Let go of that excess baggage and just let go and breathe. Find joy in the journey of life, even with all its sadness and setbacks. Do not run faster than you can and learn to celebrate even the small wins in life.
Something To Think About
Do you identify with being a perfectionist? If so, stop and step back. Believe that you can still achieve your goals with less stress and negativity. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Do not stress yourself out when you can never be perfect.
After all, what are we looking for through control and perfectionism? Praise and recognition? But that is not all that there is in life if you will end up losing your ability to be happy.