“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” – Michael Law
PERFECTIONISM is frequently viewed as a trait that boosts your chances of success, however, in actuality it can make you to think or act in ways that are detrimental to your efforts to reach your goals. Stress, anxiety, sadness, and other mental health problems could potentially result from it.
WHAT IS IT?
Perfectionism is described as a need to be perfect, to appear perfect, or simply to consider that perfection is achievable. Instead of being considered a weakness, it is frequently seen as a favorable quality. Perfectionism is harmful because, despite its victims’ desire for achievement, their main concern is preventing failure, which leads to a negative outlook. They don’t believe in unconditional love and think that receiving love and approval from others depends on doing everything perfectly.
WHAT ARE THE VARIOUS INDICATIONS THAT YOU MAY BE A PERFECTIONIST?
The majority of people occasionally or in specific areas of their lives practice perfectionism. On the other hand, full time perfectionists could continually feel the need to reach perfection.
They can also:
1. Be incapable of doing something until they are certain that they can do it flawlessly.
2. Consider the outcome of any task to be its most crucial component. As a result, they could pay less attention to actually learning something new or doing something to the best of their abilities.
3. Not consider a task to be complete unless the outcome meets their expectations for perfection.
4. Procrastinate. Perfectionists might wait to start a task unless they are confident they can complete it perfectly.
5. Invest considerable time in doing an activity that would normally take someone else less time.
6. Have need for order and cleanliness.
7. Be sensitive to criticism.
HOW DOES PERFECTIONISM MANIFEST IN ONE’S BEHAVIOR?
Most individuals want to succeed, but striving to attain your objectives does not automatically signify being a perfectionist. The typical belief of perfectionists is that nothing they accomplish is meaningful unless it is perfect. They might continuously compare their work with that of others or become fixated on producing perfect work, instead of being proud of their improvement, learning, or hard work.
Perfectionists may feel discontented even when they achieve their desired outcomes. They might think they wouldn’t have had to exert themselves as much to accomplish their objectives if they were actually perfect.
Perfectionism has several manifestations, such as:
1. Composing, revising and re-editing a two-sentence email for 30 minutes.
2. The belief that getting two questions wrong on a test indicates failure.
3. Having trouble feeling happy for other people when they succeed.
4. Comparing oneself negatively and unfavorably to others or holding oneself to the standards of their achievements.
5. Neglecting a task or skipping class because it is futile to put forth the effort necessary to complete it perfectly.
6. Refusing to do something such as skipping class or avoiding a chore because it is futile to try unless perfection can be attained.
7. Reluctance to participate in a game or a new activity with friends because of concern that they would perceive you as imperfect.
WHAT ARE THE VARIOUS DOMAINS OF PERFECTIONISM?
Perfectionism can impact a person in various important domains of life. Perfectionism might sometimes just affect a single domain or it can sometimes influence many other domains. Here are some aspects of life that perfectionism can influence.
1. At job or at school: People who are perfectionists might take longer to accomplish a task than average. They might also decide not to begin a task they lack confidence in. This is frequently brought on by a desire to carry out the duty perfectly.
2. Intimate relationships or friendships: Perfectionism can lead people to hold close friends and family members to unattainable standards, which adds stress and strain to their relationships.
3. Physical activity: Perfectionism is frequently encouraged or made worse by sports and athletics. Perfectionism may be more common in individual sports like gymnastics or track because the participant is frequently competing against himself.
4. Environment or surroundings: This may include the requirement that one’s home or yard be always spotless. It may lead someone to invest a lot of time and effort on maintaining their immediate environment’s cleanliness or aesthetic appeal.
5. Health and hygiene: Ironically, this kind of perfectionism may lead to health problems. For instance, if someone fails to clean their teeth once, they can cease doing so in the future. As a result of this kind of perfectionism, people may develop eating disorders like orthorexia nervosa, in which they feel under pressure to maintain a strict healthy diet.
6. Speaking or writing: When a person is overly concerned with accuracy, it might affect the quality of their speaking skills or writing. Because of their dread of making a mistake, they might speak very little or refrain from writing.
7. Physical appearance: Someone with this kind of perfectionism might obsessively worry about their looks or sense of style. Choosing what to dress or how to style their hair could take them hours. The pursuit of physical perfection can sometimes result in eating disorders or an obsession with exercise.
WHAT CAUSES PERFECTIONISM?
Instead of having a “growth” mindset, perfectionists frequently have a “fixed” mindset. People who have a growth mindset think they can continue to learn and develop over time. They are therefore more able to handle setbacks. Their feeling of worth is unrelated to their failures. On the other hand, those with fixed mindsets think that people are born with certain skills and talents. These people have extremely high expectations and do everything in their power to succeed. Therefore, failure can alter how they view themselves.
Perfectionism may arise for a variety of reasons. Among them are:
1. Frequently feeling insecure and inadequate or fearing rejection from others.
2. Mental disorders like anxiety or obsessive-compulsive behaviour (OCD). It has been discovered that there is an association between OCD and perfectionism, although not everyone who is perfectionist also has OCD, and not everyone who has OCD is a perfectionist.
3. Being raised by a parent who is perfectionistic or who shows disapproval when their children’s efforts do not yield perfection. Some parents may push their kids to be perfect to the point where it might be considered as abuse.
4. High achievers can experience overwhelming pressure to maintain their prior standards of performance. They frequently exhibit perfectionism as a result of this. When kids are regularly rewarded for their achievements, they may grow up feeling under pressure to maintain doing well, which can also lead to perfectionistic tendencies.
5. An insecure childhood. Adults who had a weak childhood bond to their parents, experience of various Adverse Childhood Experiences such as parental discord, domestic violence, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, bullying, experiences of comparison with other children from parents etc. may find it challenging to self-soothe. Even if the result of their efforts is good, they might find it difficult to accept it if it isn’t perfect.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT OF PERFECTIONISM?
If you suspect that you might be possessing perfectionistic tendencies that are affecting your quality of life in various domains, you should know that you can work on it to improve your mental health and hence your life.
Speaking with a therapist may be beneficial for persons who seek perfection out of a sense of inadequacy or failure as doing so can frequently help such people handle excessive self-criticism and develop self compassion. With the help and support of a dependable and empathetic clinical psychologist, it is possible to develop healthy attitudes about your goals and standards.
- The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar) and works as a consultant clinical psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at Rambagh Srinagar. He can be reached at 8825067196
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