A small measure of perfectionism can have its perks. It can be what motivates you in times of trouble. The problem lies in the reality that perfectionism rarely exists in small measures. Rather, it is the surface expression of an underlying fear of failure. It also displays a lack of self-worth. Perfectionists frequently believe that they must earn love or friendship through flawlessness.
In addition, perfectionism may manifest itself in the imposition of standards on others. Whatever form it takes, this mindset is self-destructive and toxic. Some may attribute it to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Far more often, perfectionism is a symptom of anxiety.
Two Examples of How Perfectionism Gets in Your Way
Fixation on Perceived Flaws and Failures
Even the tiniest of mistakes can feel as if it’s worthy of profound rumination. When you overthink like this, minor situations grow in stature. As a result, the perfectionist will view something inconsequential as a monumental failure.
Indecision and Inaction
You’re stuck between:
- Making the perfect choice
- Worrying that you will fail anyway
To the outside world, you may appear flaky or indecisive. Inside, however, you feel paralyzed by all the potentially imperfect outcomes.
The Perfection-Anxiety Link
In pop culture, we are conditioned to see perfectionism as admirable. After all, such striving is precisely how movie heroes overcome the odds, right? This is an inaccurate representation. Someone stuck in the cycle of perfectionism is far more likely to be struggling with an anxiety disorder. They are trapped by questions like “what will others think of me?”
It should be no surprise that people diagnosed with anxiety disorder display more perfectionist traits than those without anxiety issues. The daily stress—and inner voice—of anxiety leaves them believing there is no room for anything less than perfection.
Simultaneously, the feedback loop works in reverse. Individuals may present with a few perfectionist tendencies. This has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing unhealthy amounts of anxiety. Regardless of what came first, the result requires your attention and perhaps the support of a professional.
How To Turn Things Around
- Identify Your Thought Patterns: It is crucial to pay close attention to your emotional habits. Being aware of your specific version of perfectionism is a giant first step toward addressing it.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal: Such a practice can readjust your moods. You see beauty and joy in events and moments that do not qualify as “perfect.” Your standards will shift, and your actions will follow suit.
- Stop With the Comparisons: You can always find someone who appears to be better than you at something. Put in the work to reject this frame of reference. It has zero value and can serve to ramp up your inclination toward perfectionism.
- Make Mistakes: Not on purpose, mind you, but naturally. The only way to learn that imperfection is normal and not scary is to experience it. Try something new and let the mistakes guide you to a fresh set of skills.
How Therapy Helps
The above self-help tips can go a long way to ease the pain of perfectionism. But the underlying cause will probably linger. This is why so many people consult with a therapist. You can directly address the anxiety that drives your perceptions in your weekly sessions. Also, your therapist may dig deeper into the need to be perfect as it might pertain to:
- Parents who didn’t give praise
- Your general need for approval
- Fear of failure