Perfectionism: Does it have consequences?

What is perfectionism and How can it Change and Affect your Life?

Reading time: 7 minutes

During a job interview or when sitting with professionals mentioning that you are a perfectionist makes sense. But does striving for perfectionism disconnect you from others and make you question your actions?

If so, in this imperfect world where everything needs improving, your thirst for perfectionism (toxic perfectionism) might be harming your well-being.  This post aims to explore these dangers and what you can do about them.

Sabotaging that feeling of perfectionism and doing everything to meet the unrealistic expectations that we have set for ourselves might be difficult, but is not impossible.

What is Perfectionism?

Experts define Perfectionism as a personality trait focused on high standards, meticulousness, and a combination of critical self-evaluation. This can be a positive attribute in some cases but can also negatively impact mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. The strong desire to avoid making mistakes and do everything just the right way puts pressure on you, making you feel stressed, anxious, and procrastinate.

Perfection can be divided into two primary types: adaptive and maladaptive.

Adaptive perfectionism is a healthy pursuit of excellence and setting high standards for oneself while remaining flexible and open to learning from mistakes.

On the other hand, maladaptive perfectionism is the tendency to set excessively high standards that are unrealistic and unattainable. This type of perfectionism is often toxic as the thinking is rigid, there is negative self-evaluation and a strong fear of failure.

Some researchers have given three main components of perfectionism:

  • Self-oriented perfectionism.
  • Other-oriented perfectionism.
  • Socially-prescribed perfectionism‌.

Regardless of what type of perfectionist you are, you set high expectations for yourself, thinking it is necessary to please yourself and others. In doing so, you forget that you are being harsh on yourself, which has consequences.


How does perfectionism Affect Life?

Relationships -

As a perfectionist, you set high standards for yourself and those around you. When they fail to perform similarly, it puts you under pressure and strains your relationship. Not only this, but when your family, friends, and life partner feel they can never meet your expectations it leads to anxiety, stress, and sometimes even breakups.

The drive of perfectionism can seep into your relationship, making the other feel nitpicked or being judged. This when continuously practiced is unhealthy for you and for all the relationships you have. The relationship might start to bleed, and you may lose everyone.

Social Life -

Toxic perfectionism is not only bad for your relationship, but it also harms your social life. As you want everything to be perfect this obsession makes you struggle when engaging and mingling with others. Moreover, the desire to make everything perfect and the preoccupation with achieving perfection socially disconnect you, pushing people away.

Though you are physically present but mentally absent, you miss out on social interactions. Your habit of being critical about things prevents you from engaging with others.  This feeling of wanting everything to be perfect will make you live in your head and often, you will miss out on what’s in front of you.

Professional Life -

Striving for excellence is good, but when you are focused on perfectionism, it can hinder your professional growth. The fear of failure and not meeting high self-set standards often leads to procrastination and decreased productivity, ultimately causing burnout and dissatisfaction at your job.

As you are a perfectionist you hold yourself to high standards. However, when these standards are not met you avoid the task, which means project delays, nonperformance, and increases in stress levels. This mindset of yours will lead to burnout and you might be hard only yourself.

Therefore, if you catch yourself with the thoughts of "all-or-nothing" pay attention to it, as instead of helping you it might be pulling you away from your goals. Being highly driven and focused is good but when it leads to exhaustion, it will do more harm than good.

Personal Life -

There is no harm in being an adaptive perfectionist. However, when the high standards you have set for yourself make you anxious and give a general sense of dissatisfaction, your personal life is negatively impacted. The inability to achieve what you have a goal for gets into a cycle of self-criticism and self-doubt which can be challenging to break.

Perfectionism might make you judge everything, and you might also start to become an "emotional perfectionist." This means instead of feeling things, you will conceal the feelings of anxiety and depression, which can be dangerous.

Studies show people who practice perfectionism often have suicidal thoughts or feel worthless. If you are experiencing such emotions, reach out to a trusted individual or a mental health professional. It is important to discuss your feelings.

The desire to prove you are smarter might make you avoid others but don’t do that.


How to Cope with Perfectionism?

A machine or electronic device can be expected to operate perfectly for some time. However, expecting humans to be perfect when they are all about exploring things, learning, and unlearning is not right. As a human, you tend to make mistakes and this is what makes you a Human Being.

If you have identified yourself as a perfectionist and are ready to deal with it. Follow these tops to cope with the negative consequences of this trait.

Challenge your beliefs: Perfectionists often hold rigid beliefs about themselves and their abilities. As the first step towards dealing with toxic perfectionism, challenge your beliefs. Your mistakes or failures do not define you.

You are above and beyond them. They are the life lessons that help you grow, not fall back.

Set realistic goals: To achieve your target setting goals is good practice, but the trap of perfectionism might make you set unrealistic goals. Therefore, instead of aiming for perfection, focus on progressing and doing your best. Try to look for things in a real setting, keep yourself motivated, and don’t be self-critical if you cannot achieve a goal.

Practice self-compassion: Perfectionists are highly self-critical. When unable to achieve perfection, they end up cursing themselves, leading to feelings of anxiety and depression. To overcome the negative consequences of perfectionism, practice self-compassion, and change negative self-talk into positive affirmations.

Seek support: If you can’t change your habits or self-criticism on your own, seek the help of a counselor. They will try to help you through the negative consequences of perfectionism and develop coping strategies.

Take breaks: Perfectionists are driven and focused, to stop getting overwhelmed. Pay attention to other things and ensure you are not so much into work that you forget about yourself.

Perfectionism A Mask of Insecurity

Perfect and imperfect are constructs of the mind based on thoughts. If a person could ever achieve the implausible state of perfectionism, it's unlikely that everyone around will be able to tolerate the person.

Perfectionism has positive and negative effects. On one hand, it can lead to success and accomplishment, on the other, it can be the reason for stress, anxiety, burnout, and relationship issues. If you identify yourself as a perfectionist and struggle with its negative effects, try to develop coping mechanisms to manage the negative effects of perfectionism.

We are humans and cannot be perfect. Mistakes are essential to the learning process, embrace the imperfections and focus on progress rather than perfection. Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Seek support from friends, family and balance striving for excellence with self-care. All this is essential to maintain healthy mental health.

The internal voice of perfectionism can lead to self-destructive tendencies. So, stop hiding under the mask of perfectionism and stop being harsh on yourself.

You are loveable and capable of much more than you think.