The practice of “perfectionism” is something I carry with me daily, and it can feel exhausting. Perfectionism affects many young adults, especially those in their early 20s. It comes in different forms and can oftentimes lead to physical and mental health issues.
Three types of perfectionism
According to Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill, for the American Psychological Association, perfectionism comes in three different types: socially prescribed, self-oriented, and other-oriented. Socially prescribed perfectionists believe that other people are expecting and set high standards for them. For example, socially prescribed perfectionists can feel an immense amount of pressure of not fully performing at a high standard/level. These perfectionists can feel like they are at fault when it comes to a friendship or relationship. Self-oriented perfectionists set themselves up for standards that are unachievable. Lastly, other-oriented perfectionists are those who place unachievable standards on other individuals.
If I could categorize myself under types of perfectionism, I would name myself a “self-oriented” perfectionist, as well as a “socially prescribed” perfectionist. I tend to be hard on myself and want a high success rate in the classes I take and the things I do. I also look to be “perfect” for others to see and I don’t want people to see my flaws.
All of this can be extremely hurtful to one’s mental health, as well as physical health.
Effects on physical and mental health
Researchers from Taylor & Francis, noted that perfectionists have more of a risk of developing cardiac events. This can include cardiovascular disease and other physiological stress reactions. Luckily, these physical stresses can be prevented. There are various strategies to cope with this and techniques to reduce stress.
An article in Medical News Today found perfectionism can result in anxiety, depression, and if left untreated, suicide. Anxiety is largely tied with perfectionism because the practice produces anxious thoughts and the fear of not succeeding above certain expectations and standards. Depression is also a main factor because perfectionism is based on self-worth and if an individual is feeling low self-esteem, it can be the root cause of a depressive spiral.
Although these are alarming statistics for perfectionists to read, there’s light at the end of the tunnel and there are ways to manage and overcome perfectionism.
I wish there was a magic pill to cure my perfectionism because I would take it, but fortunately, there are ways to slowly conquer it. One way is by allowing yourself to make mistakes. There is beauty in failure and making a mistake is not the end of the world. For perfectionists, one mistake can feel worrisome, but it’s important to remember mistakes are opportunities for growing and learning.
Another way is to accept criticism. This is one that I tend to struggle with on my own. When I receive criticism, I sometimes take it too personally and it leaves me feeling defeated. But constructive criticism can be a helpful source and in the future can make us better.
One last way is to try to eliminate procrastination. Perfectionists are usually prone to procrastinate. Procrastination can lead to stress in the long run and make projects or tasks more prolonged than they need to be. To avoid this, it’s best to start something sooner rather than later, even if that means your first attempt isn’t always perfect.
Perfectionism is something that I’m trying to make better day by day, but it’s important to remember that not everyone is perfect and it’s only human to make mistakes.