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What Is The Link Between Perfectionism and Anxiety?

The connection between perfectionism and anxiety might be better viewed as a cycle than a link. After all, it can be tricky to discern cause and effect. When perfection is our standard and expectation, anxiety and procrastination are baked into that process. On a parallel track, the presence of an anxiety disorder can provoke us to seek perfection. It feels to us like a protection against potential criticism.

In other words, a link between perfectionism and anxiety exists, and we don’t need to understand the lineage. We live in a world where people admit to taking at least five selfies before deeming such a photo worthy of posting. Hence, we need to take a closer look at the underlying causes.

All the World’s a Stage

man in suit touching headWe’re conditioned to seek approval for everything we do in the digital age. Cooking a meal, doing a pull-up, going on a date, creating some art — whatever it is, we feel compelled to share it and then assess how well it has been received. If there’s ever been a recipe for anxiety and perfectionism to thrive, this is it.

We should and must seek ways to shift this paradigm, but that will likely take a lot of time. In the meantime, there are some powerful personal steps we can take to create a ripple effect.

How to Identify and Manage Both Anxiety and


Change begins with a change of perception. Anyone struggling with a blend of anxiety and perfectionism will find it daunting to admit we’re caught in a self-sabotaging cycle. That said, it can be quite a breakthrough to accept one’s humanity by recognizing what’s happening and what needs to be done.

Some suggestions:

Be More Mindful

A mindfulness practice is designed to keep us rooted in the present moment. This is beneficial because it can allow us to enjoy the process rather than dreading how others will react.

Focus More on Real Life

Taking regular tech breaks is a useful way to interact with reality. Carefully curated social media profiles and AI images do not pave the path to confidence and fulfillment. A better way to build a sense of identity is to eschew the role of “consumer” that algorithms push on us. Sure, make the most of your online experience, but don’t lose sight of how much more important real life is.

Ask New Questions

Anyone driven by anxiety and perfectionism will ask plenty of “What If” questions. They seek out worst-case scenarios. Meanwhile, you can just shift that dynamic by asking questions like, “What if I have fun/they like me/I feel good about myself?” Here’s another to try: “What if I don’t post a photo of my new haircut?” If your patterns are causing distress, break those habits. Try something new — even if you’re not sure how it will go. Over time, a positive new pattern can emerge

Most of All: Ask For the Help You Need and Deserve

When feeling anxious and unsure, you will do practically anything to avoid being “exposed.” It becomes a full-time job to hide what you see as your flaws. This can make it a challenge to contact a therapist but your weekly sessions are the kind of private, safe space you need. The act of talking to a professional is proof that you can evolve and grow. In one fell swoop, you resist perfectionism and you work on managing anxiety.

Perfectionism is a counterproductive fantasy. When you decide to get guidance on how to live more present and purposefully, you set a potent process in motion. Let’s connect and talk about all of this in anxiety treatment.

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