Many individuals today refer to themselves as perfectionists, citing the benefits in exacting high standards of both themselves and those around them. In fact, a 2016 study of 41,641 American, Canadian and British students revealed that perfectionism had grown dramatically since 1989.
However, since it’s impossible for anybody to be 100% perfect, what exactly are these so-called perfectionists aiming for, and are those aims healthy?
What is Perfectionism?
Perfectionism is perhaps best defined as a developed personality trait characterised by an unerring pursuit of high (“perfect”) standards which is usually coupled with harsh self-criticism when they are not met.
Another aspect of perfectionist behaviour is experiencing negative consequences related to pushing for those high standards, but continuing to do so nonetheless.
Is Perfectionism Good or Bad for You?
There are definitely some pros to developing perfectionist attributes. This way of thinking will help to ensure that you never miss work deadlines and that you always complete tasks to the absolute best of your ability.
However, measuring self-worth by productivity and accomplishment can cause mental health issues when you fall short of unrealistic goals. It is thought that the rise in perfectionism is contributing to rising rates of depression, stress and anxiety disorders.
Signs You Are a Perfectionist
You may be wondering what the difference is between just consistently giving your best effort with your work, or beginning to exhibit potentially troublesome perfectionist behaviours.
Here are some signs to look out for:
- There’s no room for mistakes, if you or a colleague makes a mistake you are always the first to jump on it and correct it
- You tend to have very specific methods and ways of doing tasks, and struggle with stress and anxiety when they’re aren’t done the same way you always do them
- It’s all about the end result. You don’t care what it takes to get there, as long as the end goal is achieved
- When something goes wrong you are extremely hard on yourself, even if the reason it went wrong wasn’t your fault
- You become depressed when you don’t achieve your goals
- Success is never enough. Even if you do manage to achieve incredibly taxing targets, you’re constantly looking at how you can achieve double or triple those goals for next time
- You spot errors where others don’t see any, sometimes they are real, other times these are self-imagined and detrimental to progress
How to Challenge Perfectionist Thinking?
Whilst there are a few benefits to developing perfectionist behaviour, a major issue is lack of perspective, which can lead to serious stress and anxiety-related issues if left unchecked. Here are the top 6 signs of poor mental health.
So what can you do to reduce the chance of developing these potentially harmful side-effects?
The first step is to alter your approach to goals.
Most of the negative consequences associated with perfectionism result from a failure to achieve targets that are often unrealistic in the first place.
When setting goals and targets, first ask yourself whether these can be achieved without having to make sacrifices such as longer working hours, or committing considerably less time to other important tasks. If they can’t, then you need to scale them back.
Next, make sure to take time to reward yourself and enjoy your achievements. Don’t expend energy on thinking about the next big project, instead, simply spend time in the moment and realise that time off doesn’t equate to time wasted.
Finally, schedule breaks to recharge.
Perfectionists can often become relentless in their pursuit of targets. Therefore, before starting a project or task, deliberately schedule breaks to allow both your body and your mind to recharge. This will also help to avoid making those costly mistakes that lead to undesirable stress levels.
If you decide to take a break and plan a holiday abroad. Remember to look after your health and check what vaccinations you may need before your trip here.
If you want to learn more tips on challenging thought patterns, have a look at these great thinking strategies to combat the stress associated with perfectionism.
Perfectionism Can Be Good for You in Moderation
There’s nothing wrong with having high standards and a desire to reach lofty goals.
However, when those goals become unrealistic and the standards required to achieve them become impractically high, then it’s time to take a step back and reassess.
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