3 Ways to Deal With Your Inner Drive to be Perfect!
The worlds best research (so far) into the perfectionism- suicide link has just been released. the results are a little damning (pun intended) for those of us who like things perfect...
Research published by the journal of personality describe 15 different definitions of perfectionism and ways of 'measuring' perfectionism. Suicidal thoughts were correlated to 13 of the 15 measurements. The study was a meta-analysis of over 11 000 people and was longitudinal.
The three major perfectionism traits being excessive expectations on oneself, feeling pressure from others (including parents or society at large), or holding other people to perfectionistic standards.
“Perfectionists,” the researchers explained, “are their own worst critics … locked in an endless loop of self-defeating over-striving in which each new task is another opportunity for harsh self-rebuke, disappointment, and failure.” (#1).
Excessive Self Expectation
So many of my clients experience the burden of self expectation. It is easy to put all our focus and energy into something external like cleaning the house, aceing the exam, or looking a certain way. Once we have achieved perfection in this one area, we feel like we have achieved something. Much harder, is looking inside ones self and experiencing the chaos or distress of our emotions. There is often no outcome and we can easily feel overwhelmed.
So naturally, we continue to put our energy into making our outside world perfect while our inner world remains stressful, confused and anxious - sometimes to the point of overwhelm..
Pressure from Others
Despite some outliers, I wonder how often perfectionists really experience other-orientated pressure vs how often they perceive pressure from others.
Holding Others To Perfectionism Standards
For the perfectionist, It can be hard living with other people. Others don't seem to value the same things the perfectionist does. How much is this about the other person and how much is this about the perfectionist?
All of the above three issues in conjunction is bound to create a mixture of feelings which may make the perfectionist feel overwhelmed and hopeless and sometimes cut off from other people.
So What Can Be Done?
Nothing is irreversible. The brain has an inbuilt mechanism to make us whole and content but first we have to make the uncomfortable step of reflecting upon ourselves and working out exactly why we want to be perfect or what it is that drives us to perfection. Having some sort of therapeutic process facilitates this reflection and also has the potential of helping us to truly accept all the parts of ourselves, especially the imperfect parts which we keep denying.
Ultimately, I believe that any non-judgemental self reflection will be a step in the right direction. Here are a few ways to get started:
- List the different non-physical "parts" of yourself. Think through them all and understand them. Now attempt to truly be grateful for them - how have they helped you? How have they shaped other parts of you?
- Keep a journal logging your emotions, thoughts and behaviours. Begin to understand your behaviours and which emotions drive them. Now try and locate memories which have motivated those emotions.
- Sit down and talk with someone close to you about yourself. Try to have an honest conversation about how they truly see you - you may be surprised at the outcome.
All the best,
#1 - https://digest.bps.org.uk/2017/07/27/perfectionism-as-a-risk-factor-for-suicide-the-most-comprehensive-test-to-date/
Ray Medhora can be found practicing child and family therapy in Sydney Australia as well as training other aspiring counsellors to help them reach their goals.. Ray always feels odd writing in third person.