What Is Perfectionism?
We all want to succeed in our work, school, or relationships. However, individuals who struggle with perfectionism feel immense pressure to avoid making even the slightest mistake. Small setbacks may feel like cataclysmic failures, and the quest to be perfect can become an all-encompassing endeavor. In its obvious form, perfectionism may look like a high-achieving desire to accomplish great things.
In its more subtle forms, perfectionism can look like avoidance, procrastination, self-loathing, struggles with vulnerability, and absolute burnout. Dissatisfaction with achievements, not seeing accomplishments as enough as well as a pervasive drive to compare and perform better than others are mindsets that fuel perfectionism..
What Contributes To Perfectionism?
Perfectionism can manifest for a variety of reasons. Children who grow up in households with very high expectations may believe that they must succeed to secure approval from their caregivers. Likewise, if they only received validation based on their accomplishments, they may assume that they must keep accomplishing great things to obtain love. In other cases, caregivers may have deliberately chosen to avoid high expectations yet their child self imposes perfectionism. This may be in an attempt to over compensate for other pressures or stressors impacting the family such as a medically ill family member or high-need sibling.
Some people struggle with feeling worthless or unlovable. They experience anxiety, depression, or attachment issues that impact their self-esteem. These issues can trigger perfectionism, as the individuals may believe that ‘being perfect’ will earn them a sense of self-worth.
Finally, individuals who experience traumatic failures may develop perfectionism tendencies as compensatory strategies to avoid history from repeating itself. If they received frequent shaming or criticism from others, they might become hyper-focused on success in a quest to avoid feeling the rejection and hurt ever again.
What Makes Perfectionism So Dangerous?
Individuals who struggle with perfectionism may feel negatively towards themselves or others due to the constant comparing and measuring. They often have low self-esteem, and they may believe love is conditional based on their external achievements. With that in mind, perfectionism poses challenges for healthy risk-taking. If someone fears failure, they may avoid making necessary changes in their life. As a result, they can feel stuck or frustrated with themselves and experience a great amount of shame.
How I Can Help You Break Through Perfectionism
You can accomplish great things without having to feel the tenacious pressure that your life worth primarily depends on your high performance. You can also learn how to let go of some control and even embrace making mistakes. Shifting perceptions and mindsets are a collaborative experience guided by your needs for a safe pace towards change.
Together, we can explore new strategies to release this part of yourself. You will be supported as you evaluate moving to a more goal oriented part that honors and acknowledges achievement, promotes a growth mindset and allows for a more healthy drive for accomplishments. We will explore the roots to your belief system and facilitate empowering a more balanced evaluation of self. You will learn how to challenge your perfectionism through a combination of skills including reality testing, self-esteem work, supported exposures and distress tolerance activities.
Karen Geren Counseling, LLC
St. Louis, MO 63105
ph: (314) 584-0606