When the Desire to be Perfect Becomes Unhealthy

When the Desire to be Perfect Becomes Unhealthy

Throughout our lives, we’re encouraged to be as successful as possible in all the things that we do, and accolades like grades, extracurricular accomplishments, and acceptance into prestigious schools and programs are constantly hanging over our heads. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a large portion of the population struggles with perfectionism.

Perfectionism is the desire to be perfect and avoid failure in all avenues of life. A healthy level of perfectionism can drive you to do great work in school or your profession, go for your dream job, or overcome adversity to reach a personal goal. However, perfectionism can become toxic and actually have a negative effect on success as well as emotional well-being. These two types are often categorized as adaptive perfectionism, or the drive to work hard and succeed, and maladaptive perfectionism, or the overwhelming fear and avoidance of failure.

When can perfectionism be a bad thing?

For maladaptive perfectionists, the desire to be perfect doesn’t help them to be more productive or get closer to achieving their goals. In fact, maladaptive perfectionism becomes a hindrance to goals as it often leads to avoiding challenges, all-or-nothing thinking, and procrastination. Maladaptive perfectionists become so afraid of failure or not appearing perfect that they avoid anything that could potentially challenge them, which are often the same things that improve your skills or get you closer to your goals.

Do you feel that your perfectionism is hindering your ability to grow, improve, and get things done? Here are some steps you can take to overcome your perfectionism:

Seek therapy. A well-trained therapist will have a great deal of experience spotting and working through perfectionist tendencies. Regular therapy sessions can help you come to terms with your perfectionism and develop tools to overcome it.

Remind yourself that perfection is an illusion. Many people feel the overwhelming desire to be perfect, yet most of the people they respect personally or professionally aren’t exactly “perfect” themselves. Perfection is an unattainable goal, and you’ll be able to enjoy your accomplishments much more genuinely when you come to terms with it.

Focus your perfectionistic tendencies on the things that matter. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be great at your profession. However, if you’re going to be a perfectionist about your performance at work, it’s important to allow yourself to be less than perfect in other arenas of your life. For example, an exceptionally skilled and hardworking surgeon doesn’t need to be the world’s best cook.

Find your ideal provider today to get started on your mental health journey.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741