My Struggle with Perfectionism

Ever wondered what it would feel like to be perfect? To have the best hair, body, wardrobe, job, etc.? Well, that’s something I’ve strived for most of my life. It’s called being a perfectionist.

Growing up, I never noticed my obsession with perfectionism. If anything, I just felt a desire for excellence in my school work and extracurricular activities. Ultimately, I saw perfectionism in a positive light because it encouraged me to “be the very best.” But then, college happened.

As I walked around campus, I was surrounded by thousands of successful students, from different backgrounds with wealth and beauty. At that point, my perfectionism had worked its way into nearly every aspect of my life. So, I began comparing myself.

I spent excessive amounts of time styling my hair and picking out clothes. I became more committed to getting high grades and would be upset when I didn’t do well on an exam. I perceived other students as smarter because they had “harder” or “more respected” majors.

All of this stemmed from my insecurities. Suddenly, the thought of being perfect was no longer a good thing. It left me feeling less than and caused unnecessary stress and anxiety. Eventually, it got so bad that I experienced burnout. I had to stop holding myself to such a high standard and learn to love the person I am.

Do you or someone you know struggle with perfectionism? Here are some notable signs and tips that may help you cope:

Signs:

  • You Overanalyze: You spend hours working on a project, inadvertently making it harder. You can’t stop picking at your hair because you want it to be just right.
  • You Procrastinate: Waiting to work on something until the moment’s right. Usually, it’s at the last minute when there’s no room for error.
  • You Have Unrealistic Expectations: You have unreasonably high standards for yourself and others.
  • You Constantly Criticize: You blame yourself for everything, even if it’s out of your control. You also find it hard to let go of things you’ve wrongfully said or done.
  • You Must be in Control: You try to dictate every aspect of your life and are uncomfortable trusting others.

What it Can Cause:

  • Stress
  • Reduced productivity
  • Insecurity
  • Self-degradation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

My Tips:

  • Find a Support Group: Everyone needs a support system. People who offer objective advice that comes from a loving place. Whether it’s family or friends, they hold me accountable when I’m being too harsh on myself.
  • Practice Self-care: Schedule some alone time and get to know who you are as a person. Go exercise, write in a journal or cook a delicious meal. It will help you better appreciate your mind, body and feelings.
  • Acknowledge and Accept Your Faults: We’re all human and mistakes are bound to happen. It’s OK to feel hurt or frustrated, but don’t let it consume you. Accept it and move on.
  • Learn to Walk Away: If I catch myself working excessively on something, I drop what I’m doing and decide that I’m done. Just walk away and don’t think twice about it. Learning to let go is a difficult but necessary part of managing your mental health.

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Photo credit: energepic

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  1. This very useful article articulates common thinking errors that trigger, perpetuate and amplify perfectionism and its associated emotional consequences. Missing among the tips are encouraging people to seek out the services of clinical psychologists or other specially trained behavioral health clinicians who are highly skilled in cognitive-behavioral techniques to manage perfectionism.

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