Perfectionism is often defined as the need to be or appear perfect. It is typically viewed as a positive trait rather than a flaw. A desire to achieve is healthy, but an irrational desire to always be perfect can cause problems. Perfectionism can make you feel unhappy with your life. It can even lead to mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Even mild cases can interfere with your quality of life, affecting personal relationships, education, or work.
Perfectionism can affect both the younger and older generation. Children and teenagers are often driven to be overachievers in their schoolwork as well as activities such as sports, clubs, community service, and jobs. This can lead to an obsession with success. Ultimately, it can interfere with the ability to achieve it.
Extreme perfectionism can be toxic for individuals as they are most focused on avoiding failure, resulting in a negative orientation. They do not believe in unconditional love, affection from others and approval to be dependent on a flawless performance.
Different Kinds of Perfectionism
There are three domains of perfectionism:
✽ Self-Oriented Perfectionism
Imposing an unrealistic desire to be perfect on oneself
✽ Other-Oriented Perfectionism
Imposing unrealistic standards of perfection on others
✽ Socially-Prescribed Perfectionism
Perceiving unrealistic expectations of perfection from others (usually towards the self)
Signs of Perfectionism
- Feeling like you fail at everything you try
- Procrastinating regularly - You might resist starting a task because you're afraid that you'll be unable to complete it perfectly
- Taking an excessive amount of time to complete a task that does not typically take others long to complete
- Viewing the end product as the most important part of any undertaking
- Struggling to relax and share your thoughts and feelings
- Becoming very controlling in your personal and professional relationships
- Becoming obsessed with rules, lists and work
Many factors can contribute to whether perfectionism develops. A few include:
✽ Internal Pressures
Perfectionism is driven primarily by internal pressures, such as the desire to avoid failure or harsh judgment. Frequent fear of disapproval from others or feelings of insecurity and inadequacy can be internal driving forces as well.
✽ Social Pressure
There is likely a social component for this trait. Greater academic and professional competition is thought to play a role, along with the pervasive presence of social media and the harmful social comparisons it elicits. For the younger generation, academic settings can bring out this trait of perfectionism.
✽ Mental Health Issues
Those with mental health issues such as Anxiety or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are more likely to develop this trait.
✽ Family Background
Having a parent who exhibits perfectionistic behaviour or expresses disapproval when their children's efforts do not result in perfection can result in perfectionism. Some parents may encourage their child to succeed in every area or push perfection on them to an extent that can be considered abusive.
How to Manage Perfectionism
To help cope with perfectionism, it may help to:
- Set realistic, attainable goals
- Break up overwhelming tasks into small steps
- Focus on one activity or task at a time
- Recognise that most mistakes present learning opportunities
- Confront fears of failure by remaining realistic about possible outcomes
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