Why perfectionists become depressed.

Does your perfectionism gets in the way of your daily life, self-esteem and overall fun? There is no need to panic because – we perfectionists – have the perfect (of course!) solution:

  1. Analyze why I am a perfectionist?
  2. Mull over our mistakes we’ve made.
  3. Fix them all.
  4. We just going never to make a mistake again.

 

I tried this for a very long time and it does work! To a certain extent that is. Isn’t perfectionism helpful? Can’t it be a driving force? Is it just a quirky trait? Like some people are more lose and others like things to be more predictable?

 

Perfectionism becomes a problem when it makes us feel worse about ourselves. When we’ve become hurt in the process perfectionism isn’t helpful anymore.

 

People who experience this hurtful kind of perfectionism – which is the kind I will be talking about for the rest of the post-  can also experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Why is that? Have a look at the picture below. When you’re familiar with some effects of mental struggles, you may recognize some of the effects. It isn’t difficult to imagine how perfectionism and depression can work together or the one facilitating the other. That is my experience anyway. Perfectionism was stronger when depression wasn’t on the forefront and when depression takes a less strong stand, the empty space is filled up by perfectionism right away.

 

Effects of perfectionism (1)

Why perfectionism can be devastating.

 

Perfectionism is setting self-imposed standards. The problem lies in the fact that your self-worth is exclusively based on those standards. “All would be perfect and fine, if I was to be perfect and fine”.

 

Perfectionism is the ‘not good enough measurement’. When we strive to be or to do something quite perfectly it actually doesn’t matter how the process went (was it fun to do? did we overcome hurdles?) nor what the outcome is. Because – even with a perfect outcome – we think: ‘That’s not good enough’ or ‘It’s normal to do those things.’ For example while recovering from depression I think ‘that I’m not fast enough’ and that ‘everybody can do that’. As a perfectionist we strive to be something that we are not. It’s all in our head and when I’m honest it doesn’t have ties to anything real. It’s all set up to make me feel ‘better’ about me but the outcome is that I feel worse about myself. ‘So throw it all overboard,’ the Inner Critic says. That Self-criticism spoils all the fun when goals are met (‘you should have done it faster’) or when you don’t meet your goal (‘you are such a loser’), so sometimes you avoid reaching your target (‘well, you had one month to make that call and still you couldn’t manage it’). The result of the self-critic is that he/she has a detrimental effect on self-esteem. When your self-esteem is not anchored but hangs by a threat on these ‘outcomes’ you feel like a leaf in the wind. So you try to ‘control’ that by never making any mistakes again (‘I should be friendly all the time!’)

 

 

What can we do about it?

 

Goals are good to have but goals can be competing. When you’re an employee, perfectionism tells you to be not average no, be thé best employee. But when also in a relationship you ought to be thé perfect girlfriend. Those two are not compatible. You can’t do overtime at work (to please the boss) and be home in time to make thé best dinner ever made. Problems occur when goals are rigid (always, the best, etc) and we want to control what we can’t (the bbq needs to be perfect even when it’s pouring). Statements like ‘I should never … be angry, fail, be tired, look worn out etc’ get the whole self-criticism started which leads to failure. The underlying goal is to escape the human condition of failing, fear of failing, don’t have the energy to get up after failing etc.

 

Perfectionism stems from a dissatisfaction with were you are and who you are, and because of that, nothing is ever good enough.

  1. Stop. Perfectionist tent to spend more time on tasks because we want them done well. This is draining. There is a point when you efforts don’t translate in best outcome anymore. Look at athletes; they train and they know when to train and how much. There is a point when training will not lead to better results. Rest and recuperation will. When you don’t stop, you will achieve less.
  2. Flexible standards and expectations. What are the things I can’t control? I can be a good employee but when the organization I work for isn’t a fit, things will not work out no matter how hard I try. Your standards need to include rest. There is nothing wrong in saying ‘I want to be a good partner but I need my me-time too.’ ‘I like working hard but I like to rest too.’ The path of life includes to rest, to experience things and to get up again when things work out differently. It is not your fault.
  3. Undermining achievement. Perfectionism undermines your achievements all the time. Learning to own things that are good enough is the antidote. Achievements are good enough and not perfect and unique.

 

Are you a perfectionist? Do you struggle because of that? Do you think that perfectionism and mental struggles go hand in hand? Have you undertaken steps to ‘losen up’? Tell me what you think in the comments!

Resources.

Talk on YouTube about depression and perfectionism. 

Picture credits Flowers vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

38 thoughts on “Why perfectionists become depressed.

  1. Yes we strive to be something that we are not, and we suffer. Great post Kacha! Now I’m going to check my grammar nine times before I post this because I want it to be perfect. 🧮🧮🧮🧮🧮🧮🧮🧮🧮

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m not a perfectionist, but what fascinates me most about perfectionism is that perfectionists consistently hold themselves to a higher standard than they hold other people to,.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes that is so. I hold (maybe held?) people to a high standard (I learned to let it go sometimes) and when my partner reacts I think; if you only would knew the standards I am facing. It can feel like a prison with a lot of ‘must’ ‘must’ ‘must’.

      Like

  3. Perfectionism is exhausting, constantly striving to be perfect or make things perfect. And that’s it in a nutshell for me – not so much that I want to be perfect, more I like things to be perfect. Does that make any sense?

    I love my adult sons to have great lives, relationships, jobs, homes etc and more than once, I’ve been told: “Mama, thank you but………” They’re really kind when they tell me to “back off” but I still feel hurt lol.

    I think this comes from not having any stability as a child so I wanted the great life, relationship etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That can very well be influenced by childhood. I had that ‘perfect’ imagine in my head too. It was hard to fail that one, to realize that I would not achieve it and to let go.
      I agree on the exhausting part, it’s horrible isn’t it? And so NOT rewarding to strive to ‘be’ or ‘do’ perfect.
      As for your sons, I think – maybe- it can be difficult for every mom to ‘back off’. Sometimes it’s in your genes to care and it’s difficult to ‘let go’. Time will show the way!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m smiling to myself cos I’m living in a tip right now – all perfection has disappeared. We were waiting for a new floor and sofa before the ‘lockdown’ aarrgghhh. Still, I’m relaxing in the mess 😉 Yes, it is difficult to back off 😦 but I am trying xx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aha, I was moving before the lockdown. So all my stuff is moved but no furniture of mine. We threw the old wardrobe out so it’s camping style!! 😁
        We have nothing ‘fancy’ to do, so no stress in the social department!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes to everything! I relate to this post so much, it’s a battle I’ve been fighting my whole life. I keep typing and then deleting, trying to perfectly convey my thoughts about this post in a perfect way lol 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha that’s the spirit of a true perfectionist 😀 Now, never do that again! 😂😂😂
      This perfectionist post made me think of your post, about the ways of life, how we search for the (perfect) answer but that change is inevitable and in life change seems to be the opposite of perfection. Change = movement and perfection = stillness (not in that good way)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Life is a perfectionists worst nightmare hahaha! It’s such a horrendous loop……..we keep holding out for the one thing that’s going to make life “perfect”………..I laugh about it, read about it, talk about it but it’s still there looming over me………

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 😂😂 That would be the irony of the whole thing!
        Still I’m stubborn enough to try to do something about it. I’ve come to the realization that my happiness is important too.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. totally! Jase is the opposite of a perfectionist and he’s the happiest person I think I’ve ever met. He’s also the biggest slob I’ve ever met hahaha!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Very competitive? 🙂 No I have no idea. I think such motives are very personal. I don’t want to be perfect either, I just don’t want to be blamed for being the way I am. And that’s a translation from childhood.

      Like

  5. I think perfectionism is very difficult fight – mainly because when we lessen our demands for ourselves in one area we tend to transfer them onto a different area, or to something else. Also, assessing “what is good enough” is somewhat subjective, and can change depending on our mood 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is such a good comment, thank you. I makes me think about finding some sort of base-line of good enough. One that maybe isn’t that susceptible to mood or moment. I think I’ll write a post on that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t see perfectionism as a problem in itself, it becomes a problem for people in how they react when they do not achieve it. You pretty much say that yourself. There is a definite “knack” to life – often one does not need to be perfect, being “good enough” will suffice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is indeed the reaction to having such high standards and not being able to be content with that (achieved or not). There is no problem in doing things ‘right’ or ‘as good as you can’ but than the job is finished and you should feel ok with that.
      Maybe I should time how much time I spend on writing posts (as I want them to be good). It can take hours or research, writing. DO you spend a lot of time on your posts as you post quite frequently?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am not spending a lot of time on each post at the moment, I am concentrating of more posts, shorter posts, lighthearted posts. But in normal times, yes, I will edit and edit and edit, maybe 30 times or more, before I put it live. Then start all over again next time. When publishing, there is a point when I just say Fuck It, and let it go. Sorry for the language.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post! 🙂 Thank you very much for sharing. I have always been a perfectionist and it can be very tiring indeed. Especially at work..like when I have to do things I do not think I am good at, I will just start procrastinating… And then i will start worry about being lazy so it is like a vicious circle 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is, there is never a moment of rest because of it. I’m surprised what things I find out (about me too) through blogging. Knowing that I’m not alone in this is really supportive.

      Like

  8. Speaking of perfectionism, it’s difficult to have everything perfect.. and sometimes, you don’t need to be perfect to shine. If all the flowers in the world would be perfect and the same, would they be beautiful? Great post! By the way, please join my blog too if you find it interesting – let’s grow together!😊

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve struggled with perfectionism for basically my whole life. Even as a child, I often thought I had to be perfect or it was all ruined. Which is a pretty good example of catastrophising right there. It was especially bad in college. As Ashleyleia mentions, I held myself to an insanely high standard despite having no similar judgement of other people’s accomplishments. I justified that double standard as not being a jerk to others and taking responsibility for my own actions, but now I realize I was still being a jerk to myself. I still tend to create high self-standards, but I’m trying to show myself more compassion and set more realistic bars to jump.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We can be so harsh for ourselves. I have this fear too, when it’s not perfect it will all be ruined and then I do nothing.
      To set the bar lower (or more realistic) gives us more chance to succeed and to be proud of ourselves (with more compassion and less judging). I’m still amazed how the mind works sometimes and that we need to be mindful of it.
      I hope you’re not going to be a jerk to yourself. That must be a realistic and a good goal to have! Thanks for your nice comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. If perfectionism is something that we aim at improving ourselves, it’s good but if it leads to a comparison on what others do, then it will lead to depression. “I’m not in competition with anyone; sometimes it will be high; sometimes it will be low but everyone will get their share one day to be at the top”.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A great read- I have a lot of perfectionist traits which I really try not to overrule me- especially when blogging! – do you ever just look at words for too long they no longer look like words? Haha thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for this! I am 100% a perfectionist and it results in huge anxiety for me, with feelings of never being good enough. I read a quote somewhere about ‘accepting not expecting’ and I think this is a great way of thinking – just accepting the outcome, and not expecting so much of yourself! Please feel free to check out my blog https://wellnesswithabi.wordpress.com/ – I blog about similar topics!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Abi, nice to see you here. Accepting instead of expecting sounds like a great tip. Thank you very much. Using different words can change our perception about things.
      Your advice came very timely. I’ll definitely will check out your blog too.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you SO much for this post. I have been struggling with perfectionism all my life, and only recently have discovered how damaging it has been. It has resulted in huge anxiety for myself, yet I accept it as the norm! I once read a quote about ‘start accepting, stop expecting’ and I think us perfectionists should start thinking life this! Unrealistic expectations lead to unhappiness

    Liked by 1 person

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