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Pitfalls of perfectionism: How it can harm your health

Pitfalls of perfectionism: How it can harm your health Illustrative photo (Photo: Freepik)
Author: Daria Shekina

Perfectionism is often perceived as a positive personality trait. Perfectionism can indeed motivate towards results, but it's worth considering the downsides of such a state, according to the website of the medical community Take care of yourself.

What is perfectionism

The desire for flawless perfection in everything. A tendency to set excessively high standards and unrealistic expectations accompanied by excessive self-criticism and a focus on failures.

Perfectionism often becomes a hindrance in life. Even if the desired goal is achieved, a person's mood and state are negatively affected by constant self-criticism.

10 signs that may indicate perfectionism:

  • Elevated demands on oneself and others.
  • A desire to never make mistakes and avoid failure.
  • High self-criticism.
  • Tendency to devalue one's achievements and only temporary satisfaction from the result.
  • Procrastination.
  • Increased anxiety and often a bad mood.
  • Fear of the unknown and new experiences.
  • Excessive attention to detail and doubts in the process of seeking the perfect solution.
  • Excessive control and checking of results.
  • All-or-nothing thinking.

Mistakes are part of everyone's life because without them we couldn't learn and gain unique life experience.

Experts say that upbringing can influence the formation of perfectionism.

First of all, it's about parents' example - young children and teenagers model their parents' behavior towards themselves, others, and work matters. Accordingly, perfectionism can be formed in this way.

Parents can also raise a child to "be perfect." Perfectionism can be further reinforced when parents try to motivate their child by comparing them to others.

Can perfectionism lead to mental disorders?

Perfectionism can contribute to the development of depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, burnout, feelings of guilt, adaptation difficulties, etc.

This is a significant reason to seek qualified psychotherapeutic help in a timely manner if perfectionism significantly affects life.

Here's how perfectionism can affect a person's well-being:

  • Fear of mistakes and failures impedes development - trying new things, gaining life experience, and developing new skills.
  • Due to fear of making mistakes, perfectionists typically avoid making new decisions.
  • Perfectionism prevents enjoying the present moment.
  • A person has difficulties starting any activity due to fear that it won't be done perfectly.
  • Feeling distressed when a person or others do not meet expectations. Along with high demands and environmental reactions, this can cause relationship problems.
  • Excessive expenditure of time, internal resources, and efforts.

How to help yourself

Acknowledge the problem

Analyze the impact of perfectionism on your life and try to explore the factors that may have contributed to its development. Write down the pros and cons of perfectionism in your specific case.

Reduce catastrophizing

Try to understand exactly what you are afraid of if your performance is lower than your unrealistically high standards. What exactly can happen, and how likely is it? And if it happens, how can you deal with it?

It is important to clearly define priorities for yourself and plan tasks considering the necessary time and effort.

It's not just about the goal, but also about the path taken to reach it. Learn to enjoy the process and appreciate the present moment.

Remind yourself that this decision or result is the best you can do at this time of your life and under your circumstances.

Take care of your health, and well-being, and get enough rest.