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:
- Analyze why I am a perfectionist?
- Mull over our mistakes we’ve made.
- Fix them all.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Picture credits Flowers vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com