How many times have you heard the saying that nobody’s perfect? While most people know this, their lives can still be upset by a false façade. Perfectionism and anxiety often go hand in hand, making life difficult for you and anyone in your circle.
Of course, anything that you do is worth your best shot. Where would your life be without dreams? When you work hard and do your best, there’s no telling what you can accomplish.
However, the shackles of perfectionism are more of a hindrance than a help. Positive achievers realize that making mistakes is normal and is a way to learn and grow. Perfectionists may lack personal growth because any mistake is viewed as a complete failure.
When you’re a positive achiever, you can define your goals and figure out strategies for completing them. Often, perfectionists can’t stay focused on their dreams because they are too worried that the process may have a flaw. Instead of accepting a challenge, they may miss out on many blessings in their lives.
The Link Between Perfectionism and Anxiety
According to an article published by the Mayo Clinic, it’s common to have some anxiety. However, it becomes an anxiety disorder when you have overwhelming worry and fear about everyday things. It’s a feeling of stress and being afraid that you’ll lose control.
The link between perfectionism and anxiety is evident when you consider the thoughts behind each condition. Alex Dimitriu M.D. wrote an article on Psychology Today that states perfectionism can include self-criticism, fear of failure, and impossibly high expectations. These symptoms may be rooted in an anxiety disorder.
Behaviors of a Perfectionist
Most people who are stuck in perfectionism like to brag about it because it temporarily boosts their esteem. It’s a “better than you” attitude that is a big turn-off to most people. Perfectionists don’t want to admit that they’re afraid of making mistakes and being less than perfect.
Can you see yourself in any of these examples? Maybe perfectionism is holding you back from your best life. Here are nine behaviors of perfectionism and how they can be causing you anxiety.
1. Afraid of Failure
Your parents taught you to do your best and nothing less. You also want to succeed and be proud of your accomplishments. If you are hampered by perfectionism, anything less than being perfect is a failure.
Such a restrictive attitude may keep you from trying new ventures because you’re afraid of failing. You may also procrastinate because of this fear. When you are so caught up in equating perfection with success, it can build up a lot of anxiety.
2. Want It All or Nothing
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do your best. Working hard to achieve your goals is a virtue. Most people try their best and can be satisfied at the end of the day with their efforts.
Unfortunately, perfectionists aren’t happy with the best they can do. If their results aren’t unrealistically perfect, they may become anxious, depressed, and moody. The union of perfectionism and anxiety robs them of any satisfaction and the drive to do new things.
3. Creates Unrealistic Expectations
Assume you’re a perfectionist about your home, and you’re constantly flipping through magazines for pictures of the perfect house. While it’s a beautiful idea to find inspiration for various projects in your life, you can’t make unfair comparisons.
Did you realize that those glamorous photos of homes and gardens are usually staged? It’s unrealistic to think that your home will be as perfect and spot-free as these examples. These idealized photos neglect the fact that you must live in your home, and it will get messy at times, especially with kids.
Perfectionism and anxiety also can affect your self-image. No honest person can live up to the Hollywood photos of models. The lights, cameras, airbrushing, and computer tricks are blatantly deceptive.
4. Overly Defensive
When you expect all you do to be perfect, you’ll often want praise from others. If you don’t get enough compliments or someone offers a bit of constructive criticism, it may put you on the defense.
Perfectionists are often highly anxious people, and they will defend their skewed sense of accomplishment. Do you often feel angry and resentful because people aren’t living up to your expectations? It could be a red flag for perfectionism.
Even with your best efforts, you may not accomplish every goal you want, and it happens to everyone. Unfortunately for the perfectionist, they are so focused on anything negative that they can’t see anything positive.
Perfectionism and anxiety often bring depression into a tangled web. Maybe you feel depressed because every goal in your life didn’t work out perfectly. Have you stopped to consider the many objectives that you have accomplished already?
6. Often Procrastinate
It doesn’t make sense that people who are perfectionists are often procrastinators. While they view avoidance as a bad habit, they may often procrastinate because of their anxiety. In this state of mind, they are so worried that their task won’t be perfect that they end up doing nothing at all.
In a study published by McNair’s Scholars Journal, Carin Echols calls this a Jekyll and Hyde Paradox. Echols says that some people can positively use procrastination, especially those who work well under pressure. However, it is usually a negative aspect that takes its cue from unrealistic expectations and fear of failure.
7. Low Self-Esteem
If you have low self-esteem, you may think that you must work harder than anybody else. You may be unfairly critical of yourself and believe that perfection is your only key to redemption. The problem is that when your fantasy goals don’t work out, your self-esteem may dip even lower, causing anxiety and depression.
8. Lack of Enjoyment
Part of going on vacation is enjoying the trip to your destination. The same is true for focusing on a task and completing it. For most people, the process is just as exciting and rewarding as reaching the goal.
The same can’t be said of perfectionists. Since they view tasks through the fogged lenses of procrastination and anxiety, their positivity is minimal. They may fret so much about doing each step perfectly that they never find joy.
Think of an example of an uptight host. They are often so anxious to make the evening perfect that they can’t enjoy time with their guests. They often forget that people are more important than putting on an excellent production.
9. Often Overly Critical
Perfectionism and anxiety create a dark vortex that often affects those around you. If you are a perfectionist, you probably have unfair expectations of everybody else. You may tend to be more critical and shift the blame when things don’t go your way.
These are often the people who are unreasonable and rude to the waitstaff and others who work in public. They want everything and everyone to be perfect, and they’ll be the first to criticize when it’s not. Perfectionists often experience strained relationships, both personal and professional.
Three Tips for Overcoming Perfectionism (and thus, helping to stop anxiety!)
Part of being a fallible human is that you can develop unhealthy traits such as perfectionism. While you should always have high standards, you must keep them within the bounds of reality. Here are three steps to consider for overcoming these thought patterns.
1. Take off the Superhero Cape
The sooner you realize that nobody’s perfect, including yourself, the sooner you can take a breather from perfectionism. When you’re overwhelmed with a negative thought, replace it with a positive one. For example: “I may not be a perfect parent, but I am trying to be the best I can be.”
2. Consider the Big Picture
If you get lost in the details, it may help you to focus on the results. Yes, there are going to be learning curves in achieving your goals. If you’re tempted to fret about a mistake in the details, try to ask yourself if it matters in the end.
3. Learn to Compromise
Some perfectionists get a little arrogant in their opinions about how things should be done. Do you stop and consider other people’s thoughts and ideas? When you make compromises, you may find that your way wasn’t so perfect after all.
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Your Tendency to Perfectionism and Anxiety
Are you tired of the anxiety and other negative emotions that perfectionism causes? It’s time to take a deep breath and stop putting unreal expectations on yourself and others. You’ll soon discover that it’s often the imperfect moments that make life so beautiful and unique.