Any kind of action taken in extremities becomes maladaptive, and in a similar context, when perfectionism reaches a greater intensity, it can have unimaginable effects on our performance and well-being.
It is not wrong to strive for something you aim to achieve. But, if you’re never pleased or contented with the result of your plans or events, it may reflect that you have added a pinch of perfectionism in your life! Being a perfectionist causes you to emphasize on seeing only what went wrong, and not what went right. For instance, your valentine’s day might have gone 98% like you planned it to be…But it is that 2% which will keep you obsessed and will cause you to not enjoy those cherishing memories.
According to the model given by Vera Békés and her colleagues of McGill University, about “perfectionism diathesis-stress”, the effects of stress from failure on depression are highly intensified for those individuals who possess higher levels of vulnerability to perfectionism. Simply indicating that if you are constantly looking out for things to go wrong, and in case they do it is most likely that your mood will take a major turn and you may end up experiencing a depressive episode.
For a better understanding, here are some of the signs that could help you know if you fall into the perfectionist trap or not:
- You achieve a sense of peace and tranquillity only when you have perfectly completed a task.
- How big or how small – the feeling of satisfaction and contentment of achieving anything will only last for a temporary period.
- There will be a secretive feeling of judgment in you towards those people who fall short of your definition of being perfect.
- Your ultimate focus will be on the result, and not the process of it. Results have to be successful anyhow.
- You require a continuity in acquiring something or the other, and only then does it help you remain happy and successful.
- Polarized thinking – Your belief system says you have got to be a perfect person, otherwise, you are a failure – there is no such thing as middle ground.
- You might have an extreme competitive streak in your personality.
Have you ever thought what happens when you have a perfectionistic role to play in your life? Will you cry over guilt and shame about that one tiny error you made? Will you undo all the efforts you had put in an action or event, even if that means spending another set of the day, week, or a month?
Once we know that perfectionism can interfere with our effectiveness in various domains of our life, there are various things to keep in mind so as to reduce your tendencies to seek an ideal self and a perfectionist mindset:
Know where your perfectionist desire came from
Often we are exposed to our parents, teachers and other respected individuals whom we observe and idealize, and their constant demands are what we live up to, on unrealistic standards. On the other hand, there is a chance that maybe we never heard anything, but persistent criticism caused us to internalize our voice to look for flaws. Knowing that our perfectionism grew out of early upbringing, it can help us in finding a grown-up version of resisting its hold on us.
Recognize stress when it begins, and identify its kind
Since stress due to achievement and interpersonal relationships are two different things, it is important to identify which type of stress are you experiencing in order to tackle your perfectionistic expectations. Research suggests that perfectionists high on self-criticism are affected by relationship stress or the feeling that others perceive them negatively acts as a trigger. If you recognize when and what type of stress are you experiencing, you will be able to enlist your relationship patterns in order to help you identify when is your perfectionism kicking in or making matters worse.
Challenge your dysfunctional attitude towards perfectionism
Just like a crafter can unnecessarily work upon tiny flaws and torture themselves, perfectionists expect everything they do to purely be error-free. Give yourself the permission to err at times. Don’t assume that everybody else is watching to point out your mistakes, or are waiting for you to make a mistake.
Make an intentional mistake sometimes
There are many students who become more risk-averse in their college careers, despite having a perfect GPA score during their school years. This often leads them to not take up a certain course no matter how intriguing it seems, as they believe they might not be able to ace it. On the other hand, people with less perfect grades are less anxious about losing their precious record. In a similar manner, if you permit a mistake to enter your life, make use of it as a chance to build a mental adjustment where you can live with that mistake. Instead of emphasizing on what you did wrong, focus on what you did right, which in turn will recede that error’s importance.
Some people usually say “I can’t be a perfectionist; Nothing goes perfectly in my life”. But what is it that makes you a perfect perfectionist? It isn’t really about being perfect; but about the constant thinking of the need to be perfect and pursuing the same vigilantly. The key point here is if you have to persistently re-earn or re-evaluate your worth to yourself – you are running on a treadmill of extrinsic achievements which will be never-ending. It won’t bring you a joy that may last.
The true acceptance of your inner being does not come from changing yourself externally. It comes from shifting those changes and understanding what’s inside of you!