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How Is Perfectionism Dangerous for Our Mental Health?

Perfectionism has many faces, and can appear in long hours at work, excessive attention to detail, despair when criticism is addressed, and more. If you consider yourself a perfectionist, you may experience this deep desire to exceed expectations (others’ and your own), working restlessly to not let anyone down. If you can relate to any of these scenarios, you very well may experience perfectionism:

  • If you’ve ever been upset at getting a B+ in school (as opposed to an A+), or winning second-place rather than first
  • You have a deep sense of failure, and don’t allow yourself to accept anything that resembles that (or your definition of it, anyways)
  • You are highly critical, and find it easy to identify flaws in others because you can find a lot of flaws in yourself, too
  • You view life as a “Go Big or Go Home” type of situation, which has led you to only take big chances if you feel certain you can succeed

Perfectionism has certainly helped many people get promoted or reach high levels of success, but it’s also caused a lot of mental health concerns that you may not be aware of. The American Psychological Association (APA) has noted the damaging effects that perfectionism can have on our relationships; psychologist Gordon Flett stated, If you require your spouse to be perfect, and you’re critical of that spouse, you can tell right away that there’s going to be relationship problems.”

Perfectionism can manifest within us self-esteem problems, which can lead to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and a host of other concerns. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that socially prescribed perfectionism (the form that causes us to demand more from ourselves, believe that others demand more from us, and therefore lead to us demanding more from others) has a large association to anxiety, depression, social phobia, and suicidal thoughts.

To begin taking steps away from the dangers of perfectionism, we first need to recognize how it’s affecting our mental health and our relationships with others. Then, we can practice being kinder to ourselves and others, expecting less and appreciating more.

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