Perfectionism is the extreme and constant criticism and pressure on yourself to do things perfectly. The tendency of high expectations often overflows to expecting other people to be flawless as well. Research has established that there are two types of perfectionism. One can be healthy and embraces mental wellness, and the other unhealthy, stifling it.
Striving to be thorough and conscientious, adapting to mistakes and failures, being kind to yourself, and bouncing back is healthy perfectionism. Rigidity and the desire to be in total control of situations to the point that you are anxiety-ridden and stuck is unhealthy. It becomes an obsession and prevents you from using your abilities effectively and with impact.
The type of perfectionism you exhibit has an impact on both your physical and mental wellness. Healthy perfectionism is lining up your thoughts to reasonably pursue your goals, putting forth your best effort, and giving yourself wiggle room to make mistakes and learn from them. You allow yourself to strive, but at the same time, you are tenderhearted toward yourself. Your mind and body are calm and relaxed.
In unhealthy perfectionism, you worry if you are enough, about your past and future performance, and what others will think. There is no room for failure; if failure happens, it's like a fatal stake through the heart. It results in tension and unrest or stress to your mind and body. Prolonged stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
THE 5 P'S OF PERFECTIONISM
- Procrastination: You have to do things flawlessly, which can lead to moving timelines, so there are no mistakes. There is also often a fear of failure, which stalls starting or taking action. The result of stalling can perpetuate angst and, ultimately, self-judgment.
- Performance: Judging your every performance harshly so that if you do not attain the highest level of task completion, you punish yourself with unhelpful thoughts. "I'm not enough if how I complete things is not perfect." This intolerant self-criticism places too much burden on you.
- Projecting: "If I can be meticulous, you can be too ." You place the high standards that you have on yourself on others and expect them to perform unblemished. You do not give grace to yourself or others, which can block or strain relationships.
- Pushback on feedback: You get defensive when you get constructive criticism and extremely defensive with negative feedback. An inability to receive criticism that can help you hinders growth.
- People pleaser: The need to make people happy so that you're accepted. The desire for absolute acceptance and praise can lower your ability to have boundaries in your life. When you need to portray a specific impression so that people can like you, it's often harmful to you. It's a non-ever-ending cycle of pressure.
So, how can you practice moving from unhealthy to healthy perfectionism? Healthy perfectionism uses your self-regulatory and executive function skills efficiently and appropriately. In whatever area of your life (spouse, parenting, employee, student, etc.) whichever decision you have to make or task you have to undertake:
1. Check your thoughts: Is your thinking pattern helpful or hurting you? Refrain from comparing yourself to others. Remember that your best is about your best and not to please people. Reframe how you perceive things to be done - "I can seek to be as diligent as I possibly can without sacrificing my sanity." You want to be calm, relaxed, curious, interested, and able to learn and grow. Assess your self-talk.
2. What emotions are you experiencing? Overwhelmed, worried, pressured, frustrated, and judgmental. Evaluate the result of the emotions in your body. Emotions come to serve us so that we can take a right and best action. They bring your attention to a need. Your emotions are demanding that you address that need. Perhaps you must act toward an attitude that cultivates calmness, joy, creativity, courage, and hope. Be aware; pray, be grateful, journal, meditate, whatever you need to do to get you to a relaxed state.
3. Pay attention to your energy each time and over time. Are you energized by how you're going about things, or is it draining your energy? If you're uneasy, do something that will disrupt your negative energy. Meet or talk to a friend, laugh, move or walk, go outdoors, take a break, or practice breathing exercises.
4. Make reasonable goals. When making goals, be realistic and set small achievable goals. These plans will get you moving and relieve some of the pressure you might feel. Be honest with yourself and make goals that you can achieve.
5. Practice ongoing self-monitoring. Make a list of all the behaviors that lead you down the path of perfectionism, then list desirable behaviors that will lead you to a more relaxed attitude. Use the helpful list to readjust your behavior.
6. Learn to be mentally flexible. Give your mind room to consider other perspectives. What's the worst-case scenario? "I can problem solve if I make a mistake or fail." " I can learn from failure."
Take action and move forward, whether it is a decision, a project, or choosing a relationship. You can generally make changes and adjust as you go. Staying paralyzed steals your time, energy, and peace of mind.
7. Get support from someone you can confide in and trust. Sometimes you need to talk through it to walk through it. Getting help will call you to be vulnerable and be open to embracing self-awareness.
Remember the adage, "Live and learn." Life is all about learning and growing. From the time you are infants to your old age. Sometimes life experiences are ideal and precise; other times, things don't go as planned, you make mistakes, and circumstances can be out of our control. In both situations, you can choose to acquire knowledge, find insight, and appreciate life. The most important thing is that as you go through this life journey, remember that it is a process. As you move from one stage of your life to the next, make decisions, start tasks or projects - learn to enjoy the process and be tender to yourself. Adopt diligence and compassion and welcome mental wellness.