by Gangga Muniandy
Note: the following lists are indicative, not exhaustive or conclusive.
Is Perfect, Really Perfect?
“Strive for perfection” they say, “making things perfect should be the goal”; it’s what we’ve been told and taught. But is “perfect”… really good?
Aiming for perfection, yes. As an American football coach, put it, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Some examples of that excellence are:
- Always looking for opportunities for self-improvement.
- Giving your best in every task.
- Identifying ways to work harder & better in future endeavours.
- Often achievement-focused and driven, which is great motivation for reaching many aspirations in life.
So note that just because you always strive for a job well done, does not make you a perfectionist. In the same vein, you may not have a meticulously-organized junk drawer or a closet full of clothes sorted by colour or sleeve length, but perfectionist traits may still be affecting your life and holding you back. And if taken too far, you could step into the realm of perfectionism, which often goes hand-in-hand with anxiety disorders (more on that later).
The Danger Zone – What Exactly Is Perfectionism?
Julia Cameron said it best, “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.” “How do I know I’ve crossed over to the danger zone?” you might ask. Well, here are some signs that you might be a perfectionist:
1. You tend to think in one extreme or the other, rather than seeing the characteristics of people and situations existing along a continuum.
2. Internal Ideals & Self-Blame
For yourself: you set extremely high standards that are almost impossible to achieve (ie. flawless), then are very self-critical about your failure to deliver. This could cause you to think less of your own self-worth, mistakenly deem yourself as unsuccessful, and might lead to avoidance behaviours, loneliness, isolation and even depression.
For others: you scrutinize the performance of others when it doesn’t live up to your impractical standards.
3. Others may see you as a micro-manager or control-freak, but you see your actions as just wanting to get the job done right.
4. Crippled by fear
It may seem counter-intuitive, but some perfectionists will actually procrastinate, not starting the job because they’re (a) afraid they will fail or won’t excel, or (b) so overwhelmed by the self-imposed stress & demands.
5. You are always concerned about how others view you, assuming the most negative.
You jump to the conclusion that others won’t accept you if they knew about your condition.
Your self-confidence & sense of fulfilment is dependent getting validation from others about you & your work.
Still unsure if you’re a perfectionist? Take this test to find out: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/tests/personality/perfectionism-test or a shorter version here: https://www.verywellmind.com/quiz-are-you-a-perfectionist-4006910.
How to Deal with Perfectionism and Anxiety
Perfectionism may be impacting your ability to manage your anxiety and other panic disorder symptoms. Through some practice and dedication, you may be able to let go of some of your perfectionism and the extra anxiety that often comes with it. Here are some tips to assist you in the process of coping with perfectionism and panic disorder.
1. Overcome your negative thoughts
Perfectionism is often fueled by habitual negative thoughts. You can get past this way of thinking through the assistance of a qualified professional or self-help techniques, such as writing exercises and positive affirmations. Quieting your negative thoughts about perfectionism can help you remain realistic about what you set out to accomplish.
2. Practice mindfulness
Increase your self-awareness through mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness can allow you to come to terms with your thoughts about perfectionism, making you more aware of your perfectionistic tendencies and allowing you to face these thoughts without reacting to them. One way you can practice mindfulness is by meditation. Through the practice of mindfulness, you can learn to let go and release the stress associated with perfectionism.
3. Improve your self-esteem
Perfectionism often negatively impacts one’s self-esteem. If you evaluate your self-worth by how perfectly you perform various roles in your life, your self-esteem may plummet when goals and aspirations are not met. Instead of being self-critical, look for ways to boost your self-esteem, such as getting social support, practicing self-care, and assisting others in need.
4. Reduce your stress
Perfectionism can be a huge contributor to your personal stress. Feelings of stress can zap you of energy, potentially increasing your anxiety, and impacting your other panic symptoms. Release some of the stress associated with perfectionism and start feeling more relaxed now.