Perfectionism Is Dangerous, and Here Is Why

Perfectionism Is Dangerous, and Here Is Why


Straight to the point, my therapist told me that I tend to be perfectionist, and explained to me what is it and how to get rid of it. I am glad that I had that session with him and here is what I learnt.

Most people think that it is good to have high standards in their life, and that the pursuit of excellence indicates a high level of performance at work and a strong and steady personality in life.

You feel depressed, anxious, and unhappy with whatever work you do, no matter how much effort and time you spend, and then you evaluate any ideal outcome as bad. You would often compare yourself to your colleagues and view yourself as weak and inadequate if you had to seek help.

If you care so much for the impression you make on your managers and professors at the university , then you will feel so stressed to make a mistake in front of them, no matter how small, and you postpone most of your work waiting for the right time to complete it perfectly, but often that time does not come, you have exceeded the limit of seeking excellence and perfection.

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is the tendency to set standards so high that either they are impossible to achieve or very difficult and achieving them comes at high cost.

Perfectionists tend to believe that achieving anything less than perfection is unsatisfying and terrible and that any mistake that can be made will lead to disaster, turning any work they perform into an exhausting challenge and fraught with risks and disappointments.

Why some people want to be perfectionists?

The drive to achieve perfection in the body, mind and profession has increased greatly, especially among college students today compared to previous generations, especially since the 1980s, which may have an impact on the mental health of youth, according to research published by the American Psychological Association; The two researchers in charge of the study analyzed data (41,641) from American, Canadian and British university students.

They derived from the data of (164) samples of what is called the “multidimensional perfectionism scale”, which is a test that measures how “perfectionism” standards change, for a period extending from the late 1980s to 2016, they classified perfectionism into three types:

Type of perfectionism

  • Self-centered perfectionism: that the person himself be perfect.
  • Social perfectionism: a person’s expectation of others to be perfect.
  • Heterosexual perfectionism: setting very high standards to accept the person to others around him).

Why perfectionism has increased recently?

The study revealed that the percentage of this perfectionism of all three types has increased over the past years in varying proportions, and the study attributed this increase to several factors, the most important of which were the requirements of modern social life, social media, and modern policies used in evaluation in the various fields of work and universities, which created an atmosphere of tension and competition.

The comparison among youth groups led them to increasingly strive to be the best through very difficult criteria to achieve, which also explained the higher incidence of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts among these more than any decade ago.

Numerous studies have encouraged policy-makers to limit the encouragement of competition among young people, and instead work to encourage each individual according to his potential to be productive in social and economic life, and have emphasized the importance of awareness-raising about the difference between the pursuit of excellence and the pursuit of perfection, as well as the importance of starting perfection-prevention programs in schools because of the impact of that problem on the individual’s mental and physical health first, and then on his performance and effectiveness in society, secondly.

If, while reading the article, you felt that you were interested in this; and that you want to help yourself to reduce that heavy load, you can try the following techniques (suggested by my therapist):

1- Start by changing the way you think

Replace critical and idealistic ideas with more realistic and useful data. As if you were saying to yourself: No one is perfect, and all I can do is my best.

2- Try to look at things from the point of view of others.

When you feel embarrassed by a situation, try to ask yourself: How does my friend see it?

3- Get rid of details

Try to see the whole picture, and you will find that you are not as bad as you think.

4- Things change, and it could be worse

If you make a mistake and feel it will be the end of the world, ask yourself: What are the worst-case scenarios? Will it be the same as it is now in a week, a month, or a year?

5- Get used to make mistakes

Try to make some small, harmless mistakes on purpose from time to time, and deliberately put yourself in embarrassing situations, and you will find that you are beginning to accept your flaws and mistakes day after day.

6- Do not push yourself too hard

Try to schedule your work according to an organized and realistic program according to its priority and the time you need, so that you will not postpone it anymore, and train yourself to accept criticism and learn from it.

7- Reward yourself

Finally; Reward yourself continually for any work you complete successfully, and learn how to forgive yourself for mistakes.


This post was previously published on A Parent Is Born.


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