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Perfectionism

WHAT IS IT?
A desire to excel and be perfect at all costs. The relentless and unsustainable pursuit of high self-standards that can lead to distress and anxiety. 

WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?

  • In the main, we all want to do our best and when we make mistakes, we seek to learn from them. This is normal and healthy.

  • Perfectionist thinking that becomes overwhelming and debilitating is associated with anxiety. 

  • Some anxiety sufferers can experience frequent and uncontrollable thoughts about the need to be perfect. 

  • Typically, perfectionism is driven by a fear of failure and its consequences. There's a tendency to amplify mistakes and blow them out of proportion. Mistakes and imperfection become very scary.

  • 'All-or-nothing' thinking can prevail, where anything short of perfection is too horrible to contemplate. This may lead some people to avoid trying new things.

  • The constant self-criticism that comes with perfectionism can lead to frustration, anger and depression.

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

  • If you are concerned about the effect anxious thinking is having on your life, talk to your doctor.

  • Therapy can be an effective treatment. For example, CBT or talking therapy will help you to moderate your thinking style replacing perfectionism with greater realism. You'll learn how to catch yourself when you exhibit perfectionist thinking and recognise other unhelpful thought processes.

  • Practise self-help. Take a different perspective by standing in other people's shoes. How might someone else view this? What would they do and say? What are the other ways of looking at this?

  • Another self-help technique is to focus on learning from your experiences. Each mistake, failure or knock back is a positive opportunity to learn and develop. Set yourself some realistic goals about advancing your skills and abilities. Encourage yourself to grow.

  • Try mindfulness meditation and breathing. Regular sessions will help you to recognise your own thought patterns and the effect they are having. There are lots of useful Apps now available.

  • Get plenty of sleep. People are more likely to be anxious when they are tired and fatigued. When you are fully rested you are likely to be less sensitive to unhelpful thoughts.

  • Take regular cardio exercise with the goal of achieving at least 20 minutes per day for five days a week. This could be a brisk walk, run or moderate to intense workout. Exercise is a great antidote to anxiety.

HELPFUL READING
 

Overcoming Perfectionism: A self-help guide using scientifically supported cognitive behavioural techniques 

Roz Shafran 2018

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How to Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way to Self-Acceptance, Fearless Living, and Freedom from Perfectionism

Stephen Guise 2015

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Less Perfect, More Happy

Chris Ward 2019

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