Strategies for Healing Perfectionism

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Perfectionism is a concept that plagues a wide array of people. When in full effect, it can provide both positive and negative benefits. In the long run, however, it is important to ensure it does not become an overwhelming force. Perfectionism can come from numerous sources, however, it can be dealt with by using several strategies.

Firstly, perfectionism can come from disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder (Star). It is typically brought out by an internal need to be better or in an ideal state created by one’s mind. It can also come from nagging fears about others’ perceptions of oneself. Living with a perfectionist mindset can become both mentally and emotionally exhausting. Additionally, perfectionism can hinder one’s ability to properly manage anxiety and the other symptoms that come with it (Star). Perpetuating the negative emotions of perfectionism by feeding into it will only bring more distress. When the desire to be perfect comes into mind frequently, it becomes a problem.

Let’s try being more mindful by addressing perfectionist thoughts head-on and recognizing when feelings of doubt and/or embarrassment are irrational. Furthermore, perfectionism can be challenged by an array of mindful methods. Professionals in mental health, as well as simple self-help practices, work well in combating anxiety (Star). Thinking about the “need” or “want” to be perfect, what it entails, and why one wants to reach perfection is another method that challenges oneself to delve into the root of perfectionist anxieties. Through deeply considering the nature of one’s anxieties, it becomes easier to dismantle them and deal with the thoughts that push us so hard to be perfect (Jacobs & Antony). If one is feeling courageous, seek out small things that can trigger feelings of anxiety due to perfectionism (Jacobs & Antony). These things can be as simple as missing a spot while cleaning the floor or “forgetting” to put a book away. In doing this, it becomes easier to get comfortable with imperfection and come to terms with it.

Perfectionism is a tricky feeling to deal with. It provides motivation, yet also leaves stressful and negative emotions in the back of one’s head. Managing it can be made trivial by trying to be more mindful and reducing stress. Perfection does not exist; in chasing after it, anxiety and stress will only follow. Remind yourself to relax sometimes and remember that mistakes aren’t inherently bad. Without them, no one would learn a thing.


References

Jacobs, Andrew M., and Martin M. Antony. “Strategies for Coping with the Need to Be Perfect.” Beyond OCD, BeyondOCD.org, beyondocd.org/expert-perspectives/articles/the-search-for-imperfection-strategies-for-coping-with-the-need-to-be-perfe#.

Star, Katharina. “How Perfectionism Can Contribute to Anxiety.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 20 May 2019, www.verywellmind.com/perfectionism-and-panic-disorder-2584391.

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