Perfectionism is often praised for helping us pay close attention to details and aim for top results. But this trait, often seen as a good thing, has some serious downsides that can significantly impact your mental health. This article will shine a light on these overlooked issues and give you practical tips to deal with them. Beyond the glossy surface of high standards and flawless work, perfectionism can be a slippery slope to stress, anxiety, and even depression. By diving into the less talked-about consequences, we hope to offer you a more balanced view, empowering you to make healthier choices for your well-being.
What Is Perfectionism?
Perfectionism isn’t just wanting to do well or make things flawless. It’s a complicated mindset that involves setting sky-high standards for yourself and then being extremely hard on yourself when you don’t meet them. This attitude often leads to getting stuck on little details, avoiding tasks out of fear of failure, and being your own worst critic.
Understanding what perfectionism really means is key to seeing how it can spark or fuel a range of mental health problems. Perfectionism is often linked to anxiety and depression, and can even be associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) for some people. Keep reading to learn exactly how perfectionism can negatively impact your mental health as well as some tips for overcoming it.
8 Reasons Why Perfectionism Negatively Impacts Your Mental Health
1. Stuck in Overthinking
Aiming for perfection often sends you into a spiral of overthinking. You become paralyzed, constantly pondering the “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios. This paralysis can stop you from making decisions, meeting deadlines, and can eventually lead to rising levels of stress and anxiety.
Practical Advice: Use techniques like mindfulness or breaking your task into smaller chunks. These methods can help you get past the wall that overthinking puts up.
2. The Pitfall of Comparing Yourself to Others
Many perfectionists judge their worth by comparing themselves to other people. They fixate on what others have achieved or possess, pushing their own unique qualities to the backseat. This leads to harmful feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and can even kickstart social anxiety.
Practical Advice: Focus on your own journey by adopting daily gratitude practices or maintaining a “win journal” to document your accomplishments.
3. Scared of Messing Up
The fear of failure looms large for perfectionists. They see failure as catastrophic, something that damages their value as a person. This extreme fear not only causes stress but can also contribute to more severe conditions like generalized anxiety disorder.
Practical Advice: Reframe your perspective on failure using cognitive restructuring techniques, seeing it as a learning opportunity instead of a life-altering disaster.
4. Strain in Relationships
Perfectionism can ruin personal relationships. It sets unrealistic expectations for interactions and causes unnecessary tension between friends and family members. It can lead to a cycle of disappointment, social anxiety, and even obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
Practical Advice: Be open with your loved ones about your perfectionist tendencies and strive for authentic connections, rather than perfect ones.
5. Putting Things Off Because of Perfectionism
Ironically, the drive for perfection can cause you to procrastinate. You avoid starting projects due to the fear that the results won’t meet your high standards. This delay adds to your stress levels and can contribute to feelings of inadequacy or depression.
Practical Advice: Kickstart tasks by using the “two-minute rule” for smaller tasks, creating a snowball effect that makes it easier to tackle bigger projects.
6. Feeling Physically Bad
The stress that comes from perfectionism doesn’t just stay in your head. It often manifests physically. Symptoms like sleep problems and tension headaches are common and create a vicious cycle that further worsens your mental well-being.
7. Ignoring Your Emotional Needs
In the relentless pursuit of perfection, your emotional needs often get neglected. This lack of emotional self-care sets the stage for long-term mental health challenges, such as chronic anxiety or depression.
Practical Advice: Make emotional self-care a priority. Schedule regular emotional check-ins or engage in talking therapies for more structured support.
8. Stuck in a Fixed Way of Thinking
Perfectionism can trap you in a rigid mindset, making it hard to adapt to change or learn from experiences. This inflexibility limits personal growth and reduces your overall life satisfaction, further worsening mental health concerns.
Practical Advice: Adopt a growth mindset to break free from the rigidity that perfectionism often brings. View challenges as opportunities to learn and improve.
Therapy: A Pathway to Manage Perfectionism
While self-help strategies are a great starting point, sometimes the roots of perfectionism run deep, requiring professional guidance for meaningful change. Therapy can offer a safe space to explore the underlying issues that fuel your perfectionistic tendencies.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), for example, helps identify thought patterns that contribute to perfectionism and replaces them with healthier beliefs. Another valuable approach is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which can teach you to accept imperfections and commit to actions that align with your values, rather than striving for unreachable standards. Some people find relief through group therapy, where sharing experiences and coping strategies with others facing similar challenges can be particularly enlightening.
If you’re struggling with perfectionism and its toll on your mental health, consider speaking to a qualified therapist. They can tailor treatment to your needs, helping you set realistic goals, and provide tools to navigate the emotional ups and downs of breaking free from perfectionism.
While being a perfectionist might seem like a good thing on the surface, it’s often the root cause of various mental health issues. Understanding these downsides can help you take steps to lessen their impact. Being less than perfect is not only okay, it’s actually healthier for you.
If you need support working through your perfectionism, Mindful Health Solutions can help. Give us a call today at (844) 867-8444 to schedule an appointment with one of our expert psychotherapists. Together, you can work to finally let your perfectionism go.