We all dream of achieving it. Some of us more than others.
Of course, great achievements or outstanding work can give us a feeling of satisfaction and lift our self-esteem. But the unrelenting pursuit of perfection can cause quite the opposite.
In fact, perfectionism can lead to chronic stress and anxiety.
The Consequences of Perfectionism
While the negative consequences of perfectionism can come in varying degrees, they should never be taken lightly.
Sadly, perfectionism can cause us to set standards that are so extremely high that they’re almost impossible to reach. Consequently, failing to meet those standards usually leads to disappointment, feelings of failure, and evaluating ourselves negatively. In some cases, these things can cause health problems or relationship dissatisfaction and discord. In other cases, perfectionism can also lead to much harsher consequences, such as self-mutilation and even suicide.
An Ongoing Struggle with Anxiety
Though, no matter to which degree perfectionism may affect a person, it is often a reflection of deep inner turmoil and an ongoing struggle with anxiety. How so?
Self-judgment is an ever-present reality for a perfectionist. In turn, unrealistic expectations contribute to increased anxiety as the anticipation of failure is always looming over them.
What makes this worse it the fact that perfectionists are usually excessively worried about how others view them. And any possibility of something being judged as imperfect or wrong gets blown out of proportion, leading to even more anxiety.
For some, this overwhelming stress from within or without makes them freeze up. Their fear of failure either causes them to be unable to even get started with anything or procrastinate for so long that they never get a task finished.
But even if they put tremendous time and effort into what they’ve started, a perfectionist often gets derailed by their inability to gauge when something is completed to satisfaction. Not knowing when to stop, step back, and say a task if finished eventually leads to fatigue and exhaustion. And even if they successfully complete it, the accomplishment isn’t enough to overcome their anxiety.
In essence, the quest for perfectionism leads to unhealthy coping with anxiety and, in itself, continues to feed the anxiety.
4 Viable Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism and Anxiety
While your perfectionism may have a big impact on your ability to manage anxiety and perhaps even fuel it, there are workable strategies that can help you break the cycle.
Here’s how you can start letting go of perfectionism and the anxiety that comes with it.
Strategy #1: Decrease Stress
The stress perfectionism causes can totally zap your energy. Releasing some of that penned-up stressed is a primary strategy for managing anxiety. For example, you can learn techniques to relax, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, decompressing with self-massage, laughter, music and singing, physical exercise, releasing tension by talking to a friend or keeping a gratitude journal, etc.
Strategy #2: Practice Mindfulness
Being mindful means to be present and more aware of the moment. Mindfulness can help you become more understanding of your perfectionistic tendencies and come to terms with your emotions. Through regularly practicing mindfulness, you can be more conscious of stress-induced body sensations, identify signs of anxiety, and be compassionate toward your feelings without reacting to them.
Strategy #3: Reduce Negative Thinking
Perfectionism and anxiety are increased by constantly repeating negative thoughts. You can reduce this negative thinking by learning to recognize and addressing the distortion in your thinking—writing down negative thoughts, challenging the thoughts, and replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones. When you learn to silence your negative, perfectionistic thinking, you can stay realistic about your goals and curb anxiety.
Strategy #4: Boost Self-Esteem
Perfectionism often leads you to beating yourself up over the things you weren’t able to accomplish. Or you may worry about that others might think you’re not good enough. Countering this tendency calls for a self-esteem boost. Rather than being self-critical or assuming that others judge you as unworthy, practice good self-care, seek out social support, and apply yourself to helping others in need.
The connection between perfectionism and anxiety is complex. Coping with it calls for a multi-vectored, strategical approach and patience.
It’s important that you find ways to reduce your stress, practice mindfulness, counter negative thinking, and improve your self-esteem. To that end, don’t hesitate to seek out a trained mental health professional, especially if you’re prone to self-destructive behaviors or have suicidal thoughts. An experienced therapist can help you break the cycle of perfectionism and anxiety and prevent further negative—and possibly irreversible—consequences.
If you would like help on your journey to conquering perfectionism, please feel free to contact me here or call me at (281) 693-1455. I would be delighted to assist you in building a better and brighter future for yourself.