“My brain feels like it’s been punched and punched and nothing comes out”
Earlier this year, research involving 40,000 students at universities in the UK, the US and Canada found a 33% increase since 1989 in those who feel they must display perfection to secure approval. Perfectionism can affect people of all ages and lifestyles, but it is increasingly prevalent among students.
Perfectionism is a personality trait rather than a mental health condition, yet it overlaps with a plethora of disorders from eating to obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, body dysmorphia, depression and suicide.
A perfectionist may have thoughts like “I a not good enough to be perfect”, “now I need to focus on the next task” (after achievement relief is short-lived). Perfectionists also tend to present persistent self-criticism as casual self-deprecation. It can also manifest into a “fear of failure”.
Perfectionism maybe learned growing up in “an air of competitiveness”, or over-criticisms, or due to strict parenting or having had to live upto high expectations etc. “Perfectionism serves some kind of function: Whether it’s control, getting good results at school, whether you don’t have to socialise because you’re shy … It serves a purpose. This usefulness can make perfectionism all the harder to leave behind.” Shafran
A marketised form of competition has pushed young people to focus on their achievements. And, of course, social media has made everything seem performative – and perfectable.
Paul Hewitt and Gordon Flett describe Three types of perfectionism: socially prescribed (in which a person believes that others require them to be perfect); other-oriented (in which a person requires others to be perfect); and self-oriented (requiring oneself to be perfect).
Linda Blair, a psychologist, recommends that her clients try “the best friend test”: offer yourself the advice you would offer to a friend with the problem. For a friend you may feel “Your best is your best” so why to be so hard On yourself.
Another way is to accept that perfection can’t ever be achieved. One can do their best. It may still not be perfect, but in trying their best, one is as close to perfect as can be.
“If I had to get right to the crux of the issue, it would be working with people to have self-acceptance,” Hewitt says. “This is who I am. I am on this earth once. If I can accept myself, with my strengths, my abilities, my liabilities and just get on with living my life rather than trying to evaluate myself and coming up short all the time … That’s really what we focus on.”
Ways to overcome perfectionism
1. Setting realistic Goals and Standards.
As human beings No one can be 100% perfect, aiming for perfection or setting high standards of achievements (the level where you feel you have achieved or this is good enough) usually winds up in feelings of helplessness, disappointment, stress, anxiety, worthlessness,feeling not good enough, not good at anything.
These feelings are because no matter how hard we try we can’t live upto our expectation from our self (It’s an unrealistic expectation that can’t be achieved). It may also lead to lethargy, procrastination (the fear of not being perfect and feeling all of the above) etc. So analyze and set goals and standards of achievements realistically.
2. Learn How to Take Criticism positively.
For perfectionists the idea is to be so meticulous, that there’s no mistake to be found. However, other people will always find faults. Hence, instead of trying to avoid criticism at all costs, a much better strategy is to learn how to take criticism.Evaluate who is criticising you and why, identify anything in the criticism that can be used to bring about an improvement and discard any criticism that is unhelpful.
3. Try New Things.
Perfectionists have a tremendous fear of making mistakes. And all this does is hold them back. After all, making mistakes is how we grow. In addition, being able to tolerate mistakes is a vital component of innovation and risk taking.
4. Realize that you hurt yourself and the people around you.
Many movies, many songs and just what the world is telling you it is very easy to believe in fantasies of perfection. But it clashes with reality and tends to cause much suffering and stress within you and in the people around you or possibly lead to an imbalance in relationships, job etc. just because your expectations are out of this world.
5. Accept that you are human and so are everyone else.
Set human standards for yourself and everyone around you. Everything and everyone has flaws and things don’t always go as planned. You can still improve things but they will never be perfect. And realize that you won’t be rejected if things or you aren’t perfect. At least not by reasonably well-balanced human beings.
6. Compare yourself to yourself.
Comparing yourself to other people on a regular basis can easily lead to feeling inferior. There will always be a lot of people ahead of you in any area of life. So focus on your improvement, what you have overcome, appreciate yourself.
7. Bring your focus back to what makes you feel happy and peaceful.
By doing what you believe will make You happy and at peace, other people’s real or perceived expectations or judgements have less control over you; and your centre of control (what drives you, what makes you feel happy or sad or confident) shifts inwards.
“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it.”