Clinical psychologist Paul Hewitt states that perfectionism is linked to depression and even suicide in more severe cases. Although perfectionists are often considered the great pillars of society that make them likeable individuals with a combination of their reliable, dutiful nature and their humility, it is within their high-achieving tendencies that can eat away who they are, amplifying problems with the self. Hewitt states, “It’s not a way of thinking. It’s a way of being in the world.”
Perfectionism isn’t about perfecting your job, looks, or a relationship. It’s a way of perfecting the self. The scary part is that it’s a form of self-abuse that is often rewarded for, because society deems it as good behavior from such polished and ideal results. But, what about underneath the surface? How does it kill? And moreover, how can it be survived? Psych2Go shares with you 5 ways perfectionism can make you more depressed and how to cope with it:
1. Perfectionism makes you more self-critical.
Yale psychologist Sidney Blatt found that perfectionism leads to self-critical depression. It is also linked to eating disorders. People who identify themselves as perfectionists try to make the impossible possible, which involves denying parts of themselves that have supposedly let them down in some manner. Their self-criticism acts as a punishment to do better next time, but this form of extremism is a way of self-destruction.
I used to view self-criticism as a tool to help me challenge myself, but moreover, I wanted to put myself down first before anyone else could as a poor coping mechanism. I thought, Well, if I hurt myself first, then no one can take that place and hurt me. I treated it like a race, always desperately trying to make it to the finish line, when the only thing I was finishing was my healthy sense of identity. I let it come to an end, because I was hurting that much. In order to cope with self-criticism, it’s important to be kind to yourself. It’s weird. I could be kind to anyone —anyone but myself. Sometimes, it gets so bad that I find myself wishing that I was never born. But when it gets as severe as that, I always try to remind myself how much hard work I’ve done just to get to where I am today. Sometimes, even when you find yourself not caring about your life, it’s the work you put in that saves you.
2. Perfectionism hinders your ability to succeed.
Contrary to popular belief that the more perfectionistic you are, the more it’ll drive you to achieve, in some cases, it can be so severe that the only driving it’ll do is push you off the edge. American writer Ned Vizzini of It’s Kind of a Funny Story committed suicide at the age of 32 when he jumped off the roof from his parents’ home. When Vizzini was 19 years old, he already had his first book Teen Angst? Naah… published. Perfectionists are anxious about their work. And while it’s great to be passionate and dedicated to something you’re working towards, the performance has to be executed in healthy increments of progress. Otherwise, you’re only burning yourself out, and in some cases, it can be fatal.
It’s important to be cognizant and set boundaries by creating small goals within big goals. That way, your focus isn’t just on the big picture, but rather the baby steps you need to take to get there. This helps you become less overwhelmed by the future and helps you stay in the present to make things happen more efficiently.
3. Perfectionism causes you to procrastinate more.
This is because the fear of failure is often linked to perfectionism. Perfectionists think that the longer they can put something off for, then the chances of them messing it up will be slimmer, because they haven’t started the project yet. But, it’s counterproductive because it holds you back. Letting your fears win, because you think you’re not good enough causes more regrets later on in life than taking the chance at trying something new and failing it. In order to stop procrastinating, try to view your projects as only the beginning of the whole picture, rather than the end product. This will help take off some of the pressure and anxiety you feel towards starting them.
4. Perfectionism gives others the power to determine how you feel about yourself.
According to Hewitt, before kids even learn how to speak, they learn if being too close or wandering away from their mother makes her anxious, or whether people are there to help them when they’re upset. Within these interactions, however, some kids learn whether or not they’re worthy or if there’s something wrong with them due to flaws and imperfections. As a result, perfectionism develops as a way to cope with not feeling a sense of belonging in the world.
Perfectionists often think that if they’re perfect, then they won’t be rejected or ridiculed. Therefore, they will also start to believe that they’re not worthy of love unless they’re perfect. In order to cope with this, it’s important to recognize that love doesn’t grow from the absence of flaws, but rather from the acceptance of them.
5. Perfectionism doesn’t give you a chance to humanize yourself.
You’re constantly pushing yourself to do better, trying to improve and be the best version of yourself, that you create unrealistic expectations. You don’t allow yourself to make mistakes, and because of that, you also miss out on life. You miss out on growth, because you want only good results. But life isn’t a linear journey, and as you balance on that thin line, trying to walk forward every step of the way, there is so much you keep yourself from experiencing outside that realm of internal self-criticism. Perfectionism hinders your ability to form possibilities for yourself, whether it pertains to your career, love life, or other personal goals.
So, you got that A+ on your test. You won employee of the month. And you’re supposedly dating the perfect person that meets every check mark on your list, because the two of you never fight. But, does any of it actually fulfill you? Do you feel anything substantial? Or are you only participating in those sectors, because you’re afraid to be anything more than perfect? What if I told you that as you lay there on your deathbed one day, none of those things will matter in retrospect? It’s going to hit you ten times harder and you’ll only wish you had more time to do it right. Not perfectly.
How has perfectionism affected you and what do you do to cope with it? Leave a comment down below!
Baer, D. (2017, June 16). Here’s The Profound Psychological Shift That Frees People From Perfectionism. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
Yardley, W. (2013, December 20). Ned Vizzini, 32, Dies; Wrote Teenage Novels. The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2017.