February 8, 2024

Perfectionism and how we can help

About

Many people describe themselves as being a perfectionist, implying they prefer things to be done, by themselves and others, in the best possible way. Perfectionism, however, can be detrimental to our mental health if we find it extremely difficult to tolerate anything other than what we deem to be perfect.

As opposed to a preference on how things are done, perfectionism can impact the way in which we live our life and make it difficult for us to be the person we want to be. We may never feel satisfied by our own efforts or life in general and find it difficult to have relationships with others due to their approaches to things being different from our own.

Actions that can help

  • Making mistakes is a completely normal and expected part of life. Try to remember that you people will still like you if you make the wrong move sometimes.
  • Comparing yourself to others can easily make you feel worse about your own life. You can’t possibly know all facts about someone else or the advantages they have had, try to focus on you.
  • We learn through mistakes. When things don’t go to plan, try and focus on what it has taught you as opposed to just criticising yourself.
  • Look for other people’s strengths and try to criticise them less.
  • Even though it can feel that way sometimes, success is rarely black and white. You may have made real progress and improvement despite not achieving your ultimate goal, which is still a success.

Symptoms

Exaggerated fear of failure

Mistakes are not seen as a normal part of life, but as a sign of weakness or stupidity. Failure is difficult to accept in any form but is particularly unbearable in one’s own life.

Defensiveness

It may be difficult to accept any form of criticism, no matter how constructive or minor. Those with perfectionism can also be very hard on others - even if they don’t intend to be nor enjoy being that way.

Black-and-white thinking

The world is very black and white - there are only rights and wrongs, no grey areas. This rigid worldview means that those with perfectionism feel that they have to behave in certain ways at all times, which can be frustrating for others. They feel that people either love them or hate them and are either with them or against them.

Procrastination

The fear of being anything other than perfect can lead to chronic procrastination, as it is better to not attempt something than to try and fall short in any way.

Constant stress

Never being satisfied with one’s work, if it can even be attempted, can result in a feeling of constant stress.

Treatment

A form of talking therapy is the recommended course of action for perfectionism. A therapist will work with you to identify how you came to shape your view of yourself and the world as a whole, allowing you to recognise and challenge untrue beliefs.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) will help you manage and adapt ways of both thinking and acting. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) both bring useful frameworks and strategies for tackling perfection, and Person-Centred Therapy can also be useful in identifying and celebrating the positive aspects of who you are.

How to get help

The first step in getting help with your perfectionism is to take action towards getting some support and treatment. Seeking help is the best thing you can do. This could be as simple as talking to someone you trust, such as a family member or a friend who can help to support you in accessing help.

If you feel ready to speak to a professional, contact us today and we can match you with a therapist that specialises in treating perfectionism.

Perfectionism - Five facts

  • Perfectionism is a multidimensional personality style that can be associated with a large number of psychological, interpersonal, and achievement-related difficulties.
  • Self-oriented perfectionism is the requirement for the self to be perfect. It is what we usually think of when we use the term perfectionism.
  • Other-oriented perfectionism is the requirement that others (e.g., spouse, children, subordinates, and other people in general) should be perfect.
  • Socially prescribed perfectionism is the perception that others (e.g., one’s parents, boss, and people in general) require oneself to be perfect.
  • Genetics do have a part in perfectionism, but it is thought that the substantial role is played by environmental factors.

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