I hoped to write a blog on perfectionism and wanted it to be perfect.. er.. awesome, helpful, and useful. While revising this blog post, I did a simple google search on "thoughts of a perfectionist" and found over 44,000 articles in the search, related to this topic. When I narrowed down the search to the last 3 years, there were still at least 10 pages of search results. This led me to wonder, why is it that perfectionism still continues? Why are there individuals with anxiety and/or low self-esteem who aren't looking to change these thought patterns? Research does show a relationship where there is a greater likelihood for perfectionists to experience anxiety, test anxiety, eating disorders, depression symptoms, low self-esteem, sleep difficulties, and suicidal thoughts. However I believe that perfectionists don't exactly see these patterns as a "problem" or something that they can really fix even if they wanted to. They may not be aware that it is an issue. So how might a perfectionist proceed? How can friends/family be supportive?
Is Perfectionism Something I Need to Worry About?
In general, most symptoms become concerning when they cause distress or impair daily functioning in activity performance or relationships and communication with others. Some individuals may also procrastinate or avoid activities because of perfectionism. Individuals with these perfectionistic standards tend to achieve less and stress more than regular high achieving individuals.
Why Recover from Perfectionism?
If you are thinking about working on your perfectionism, imagine a life where starting tomorrow, you no longer thought in this way. What would that look like? How would you know you were better? What would you gain if your perfectionistic thoughts decreased or lost their control over you altogether? Write down your thoughts to these questions as they will help you remember why you are changing these behavior habits and what you hope to achieve.
How to Start Your Recovery From Perfectionism
If you were to be less perfectionistic tomorrow, what change could you make? Just think for a moment how you might accomplish this. Could you begin to track when these perfectionistic thoughts are occurring? Perhaps you might think of a gentler way to talk to yourself when you are unhappy with an outcome. Are there other ways that you can evaluate your worth other than by the outcome in the situation you are thinking about? Determine a specific plan that is doable. When you come up with a plan that you can confidently follow through on (e.g. are you certain or fairly certain you can do it), give it a try! It could also be helpful to let a safe person in on your plan for support and encouragement.
Even if efforts to decrease, eliminate, defer, or change these unhealthy thoughts are less than ideal,
have patience and continue to work on it. As with many things, change doesn’t happen overnight,
especially with thoughts and behaviors that have become habitual.
Thanks for reading and until next time, <3 be well!
All blog posts from Dr. Soo Hoo are provided for educational and informational purposes only. As Dr. Soo Hoo is a licensed clinical and health psychologist, we must make it clear that nothing on the blog is intended to constitute medical or psychological advice, consultation, recommendation, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are concerned about your health, please seek appropriate care in your area.