Perfectionism Is One Helluva Drug
And it will take you down.
We have many silent killers in our society. These are things that are publicly celebrated even though they’re killing us inside.
Some common examples are unhealthy foods, excessive drinking, burnout—you get the picture. And in my opinion, perfectionism is another one of those things.
I don’t know that we really dig deep into how common and how dangerous perfectionism is, especially today. I, myself, have struggled with perfectionism for most of my life, and a lot of it was experienced unconsciously.
I didn’t think I was being unhealthy. I thought I was being a go-getter, ambitious, detail-oriented. I was cultivating high standards, because why not? I was striving for greatness. What’s so horrible with all of that?
Well, over time, I couldn’t deny the very real and very unhealthy affects of my perfectionism, as well as it’s very ugly and dark shadow.
According to Healthline, perfectionism can make you feel unhappy with your life. Eventually, it can lead you to stop trying to succeed. Even mild cases can interfere with your quality of life, affecting your personal relationships, education, or work.
Sure, a desire to go above and beyond, to achieve success, and to do great things with your life can be a wonderful motivator. But there’s a fine line between motivation and obsession, and if you’re not careful, perfectionism can breed unrealistic and irrational standards for your life, your relationships and yourself.
You may be experiencing perfectionism if you:
feel like you fail at everything you try
procrastinate regularly—you might resist starting a task because you’re afraid that you’ll be unable to complete it perfectly
struggle to relax and share your thoughts and feelings
become very controlling in your personal and professional relationships
become obsessed with rules, lists, and work, or alternately, become extremely apathetic
The rise in perfectionism has also been linked to a number of mental health issues. A meta-analysis of 284 studies found that high levels of perfectionism were correlated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harm and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
There’s no definite cause of perfectionism, but it is a learned behavior.
Perhaps from a young age, you were groomed to believe that you’re only as valuable as your achievements, or the only time you received praise and attention was when you did something exceptional. Maybe you were always overshadowed by a sibling for affection and recognition. Hell, maybe a scroll on Instagram has fed you this idea that you’re supposed to look a certain way and have a certain life in order to be happy and worthy.
It’s all bullshit, but the repercussions of those ideals are not.
If perfectionism is something you struggle with, there are things you can do right now to start breaking up with it.
In addition to seeking therapy or professional help, if that’s something you’re open to doing, it may also help to:
set realistic, attainable goals
break up overwhelming tasks into small steps
focus on one activity or task at a time
acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes
recognize that most mistakes present learning opportunities
confront fears of failure by remaining realistic about possible outcomes
Underneath that desire to be perfect is a deep desire to be loved. Know that you don’t have to perform for love. You don’t have to be anyone else to gain love. You don’t have to fit a checklist to receive love.
You are love.
So loosen the reigns, yeah? The little kid in you is tired.