There has been a rise in the drive towards perfectionism for the past many decades. One of the main culprits, unsurprisingly, is our obsession with social media which allows us to stay in a constant state of comparing ourselves to others. But certain disorders, such as anxiety and OCD, have a strong link to perfectionistic thinking.
The fear that not being perfect or making a mistake in one way or another could lead to a severe consequence is at the foundation of many peoples anxiety and/or OCD. “What ifs” quickly come to peoples minds…
What if I make a mistake and I’m fired from my job?
What if I’m not good enough and people see that?
What if don’t stay in control at all times and something bad happens as a result?
These “What ifs” cause significant anxiety and what do we tend to do when we feel anxious? We often try to immediately lessen the feeling. This could look like:
- Reviewing documents and emails multiple times to make sure no mistakes exist
- Over-preparing for meetings, presentations, and social situations so people are less likely to think “I’m not good enough”
- Perfecting physical appearance by spending hours doing hair, make up and clothes to reduce the chance others will judge your appearance
- Mentally reviewing perceived past mistakes
The ruse of perfectionism is that it FEELS like it’s working well for you.
It FEELS like it’s what’s got you that promotion and why you are so successful.
It FEELS like it’s why people compliment you on your skills and work ethic.
It FEELS like it’s why people like and accept you.
The truth is, it’s not the acts of perfectionism that are creating those positive outcomes. The compulsions that go into perfectionism actually drain energy, increase anxiety and depression, and impact peoples overall health and quality of life.
Most people who are perfectionists come to therapy feeling BURNED OUT, EXHAUSTED, RESPONSIBLE FOR TOO MUCH and ANXIOUS. That’s because over time, it becomes clear that the work it takes to maintain this level of perfectionism isn’t realistic or helpful.
Stopping the perfectionist compulsions is extremely challenging. Your brain will try to trick you into thinking that you need to keep up these behaviors or things will fall apart. That’s where Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy can help. CBT helps people understand their thinking patterns: which ones are healthy & working well and which ones are irrational & creating anxiety and/or depression. Most people who have perfectionist thinking fall into the all-or-nothing thinking trap: “If I don’t do it perfectly (all), I will fail (nothing)”. Understanding and changing your thinking patterns and your reactions to your thoughts is possible. If you feel you need some extra help in doing so, reach out to inquire about therapy focused on overcoming perfectionism.