Do you strive for perfection in everything you do? If so, you are not alone. Many people feel the need to be perfect, and this can often lead to problems. They believe that perfectionism and high standards are the same, but this is not always the case. Being the best at something is great, but constantly striving for perfection can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Here is what you need to know about perfectionism.

What Is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is self-defeating behavior in which you set unrealistically high standards for yourself and become overly critical when you don’t meet them. Perfectionists have this constant internal message that all have to be perfect at all times, with no room for error, no room to disappoint or be human. It’s often accompanied by black-and-white thinking, where something is either perfect or a failure.

This can be very damaging to your mental health, your weight loss journey, and your overall happiness. People who are perfectionists often have a strong need for approval and may be highly critical of themselves and others.

Perfectionist tendencies are seen in both young people and adults. No one is left out of this mental torture. School kids, from the first grade, to college students to university graduates, also suffer from perfectionism.

The Difference Between Perfectionism And Striving To Do Your Best

It’s important to distinguish between perfectionism and striving to do your best. Seeking to do your best is a healthy way to live. It means setting goals and working hard to achieve them. But it also means being okay with imperfection.

Perfectionism, on the other hand, is an unhealthy way to live. It means setting impossible standards and beating yourself up when you don’t meet them. A never-ending cycle of perfectionism can harm your mental and physical health.

Healthy perfectionism can drive people to do their best, but unhealthy perfectionism can lead to stress and other adverse effects.

Signs You Have Perfectionistic Tendencies

  • All-or-nothing thinking: You see things as black and white, good or bad. There is no middle ground.
  • Rigid rules and standards: You have strict standards for yourself and others.
  • Procrastination: You tend to put things off because you want them to be perfect.
  • Perfectionistic self-talk: You are hard on yourself and constantly tell yourself that you’re not good enough.
  • Never feeling good enough: No matter how much you achieve, it’s never enough. You always feel like you could have done better.
  • Fear of failure: You’re afraid to fail because you think it will make you a bad person.
  • Fear of making mistakes: You’re afraid to make mistakes because you think they will reflect poorly on you or cause others to be disappointed in you.
  • Difficulty finishing tasks: You have difficulty completing tasks because you want them to be perfect.
  • Avoidance: You avoid specific tasks or situations because you’re afraid you won’t be able to do them perfectly.

The Causes Of Perfectionism

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There is no single cause of perfectionism. However, many factors contribute to whether perfectionism develops. Factors such as:

Shame

Shame is a product of the need to be perfect. You may have been shamed for not being perfect in the past. This could be from your family, friends, or society, which leads to your obsession with perfection. You then work yourself out to have a perfect body, job, etc., to compensate for that shame.

Fear

Fear is often the root cause of perfectionism. You may fear failure, making mistakes, letting others down, or not being good enough. This can lead to setting unrealistic standards for yourself.

Parental Influences

If your parents were perfectionists or had high expectations, you may have inherited perfectionistic traits.

Personality Traits

Some personality types are more prone to perfectionism than others. Like anything else, perfectionism exists on a spectrum.

Traumatic Experiences

If you have experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect, you may be more likely to become a perfectionist. Body shaming is one major experience that leads people to desire a perfect physical appearance.

Societal Pressures

There is a lot of pressure in today’s society to be perfect. With social media, you are constantly seeing other people’s “perfect” lives, which can add to your perfectionist tendencies.

Types Of Perfectionism

There are three main types of perfectionism: self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed.

1. Self-oriented Perfectionism

This type of perfectionism is when there is relentless striving for extremely high standards for yourself, and you are very critical of your own mistakes. Research suggests that self-critical perfectionism is more likely to lead to negative emotions, such as distress, avoidance, anxiety, and self-condemnation.

2. Other-oriented Perfectionism

This type of perfectionism is when you have high standards for others and are very critical of their mistakes. Other-oriented perfectionism is having unrealistic expectations for others that, in turn, pressure them to have perfectionistic motivations of their own.

3. Socially Prescribed Perfectionism

This type of perfectionism is when you feel you have to be perfect because others expect it from you.

Other Types Of Perfectionism

Adaptive perfectionism: This type of perfectionism can be helpful. It motivates you to set high standards and achieve your goals.

Maladaptive perfectionism: This is when your perfectionism leads to negative consequences, such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. It is also known as clinical perfectionism. Maladaptive perfectionists tend to be self-oriented perfectionists. They have high standards for themselves and are critical of their own mistakes.

Personal standards perfectionism: This is when you have high standards for yourself but are not as critical of your mistakes.

The Dangers Of Being A Perfectionist

Perfectionism can be very harmful to your mental and physical health. There are consequences, such as:

Anxiety: When you’re a perfectionist, you’re constantly worried that you’re not good enough. This can lead to anxiety and even panic attacks. Perfectionism is a risk factor for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessions (intrusive thoughts) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors).

Depression: Perfectionism can also lead to depression. When constantly striving for an impossible goal, it’s easy to become discouraged and feel like a failure.

Eating disorders: Perfectionism often contributes to eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Due to the stress from the need to be perfect, they turn to food as their coping system. Some others use drugs or alcohol to cope with their anxiety and depression.

Social isolation: Perfectionists often isolate themselves from others because they fear being judged.

Psychological distress: Perfectionism can cause much psychological distress, like anxiety, depression, and even suicide risk.

Intimate relationships or friendship problems: Perfectionism can also cause problems in relationships. Perfectionism can make you place unrealistic standards on your loved ones, bringing extra stress and pressure into the relationship. Perfectionists are often critical of their partners and have difficulty letting go of mistakes.

Lower self-esteem: Perfectionism affects your self-esteem. Perfectionists often have low self-esteem because they’re never good enough in their own eyes. This can have a major impact on a person’s life image and overall life satisfaction.

The Effect Of Perfectionism On Your Weight Loss Journey

If you’re a perfectionist, you may have difficulty sticking to your weight loss goals. You may be so worried about not being perfect that you give up before you even start. Or, you may be so critical of yourself that you become discouraged and give up when you don’t see results immediately. It can also be that the disappointment of not reaching perfection leads you to turn to food for comfort, or other coping mechanisms, like substance abuse, which can get in the way of your weight loss journey, or, worse case, be detrimental to your health.

Antidote For Perfectionism

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Identify Your Triggers

The first step is to identify what triggers your perfectionistic behavior. This can be different for everyone. It could be a particular situation, such as being in a group setting, or a specific time of day, such as when you’re feeling stressed. Once you know your triggers, you can start avoiding them.

Challenge Your Perfectionistic Thoughts

Once you know what your triggers are, you can start to challenge your perfectionistic thoughts. For example, if you’re triggered by being in a group setting, you might tell yourself that it’s okay to make a mistake in front of others. Or, if you’re triggered by a particular time of day, you might tell yourself that it’s not worth sacrificing your mental health for perfection.

Set Realistic Goals

Another way to secure your well-being is to set realistic goals. If you’re constantly setting unrealistic goals for yourself, it’s no wonder you feel like a failure. Instead, try to set achievable goals. Setting realistic goals makes you more likely to achieve them and feel good about yourself. However, a high achiever can be satisfied with doing a great job and achieving excellence, even if their high goals aren’t met.

Focus On The Process, Not The Outcome

One of the main reasons perfectionists are so stressed is because they’re always focused on the result. They’re constantly worried about whether or not they’ll be successful. Instead, try to focus on the process. This means enjoying the journey and learning from your mistakes.

Practice Self-compassion

One of the best antidotes to perfectionism is self-compassion. When you’re able to be kind to yourself, it’s much easier to let go of the need to be perfect. Instead of beating yourself up for your mistakes, learn from them and move on. Do a self-check of why and how the error occurred and how you can correct and avoid it. Learn from the experience and move on.

Take Breaks

When you’re constantly striving for perfection, it’s essential to take breaks. This will help you to relax and recharge. Taking breaks from social media and other triggers that can worsen your perfectionism is also a good idea.

Seek Professional Help

If you’re struggling to overcome your perfectionism on your own, it’s vital to seek professional help. This is because perfectionism can signify an underlying mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression. If you think you might be struggling with a mental health condition, please contact a mental health professional for help.

  • Talk to your doctor: If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems due to perfectionism, your doctor can help. They may prescribe medication or refer you to a therapist.
  • See a therapist: A therapist can help you learn how to manage your perfectionism. They may use cognitive behavioral therapy or other methods to help you change your thinking and behavior. You can also seek a counselor who could help you with different ways of treatments.

Join A Support Group

Many perfectionism support groups are available online and in person. This can be a great way to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

How To Avoid Perfectionism

There are a few things you can do to avoid becoming a perfectionist:

  • Realize that no one is perfect: The first step to avoiding perfectionism is to realize that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s okay.
  • Take your time: Don’t rush yourself. If you’re feeling pressured to hurry up and finish something, it’s okay to take a step back and breathe. It’s better to do something well than to do it quickly and not enjoy the process.
  • Give yourself grace: It’s also essential to give yourself grace. Remember that you’re not perfect, and that’s okay. Beating yourself up for your mistakes will only make things worse. You are human and deserve to be treated with kindness and understanding.

Conclusion

If you are struggling with perfectionism, know that you are not alone. Many people struggle with this condition. But there is hope! With the tips listed in this blog post you can learn to overcome perfectionism and live a happy, healthy life.

If you want to learn more about overcoming perfectionism, sign up for Lesley Goth’s How to Love What you See in the Mirror Again Masterclass!

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