Perfectionism

Perfectionism can be defined as “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable”.

Perhaps a better definition is:

“The over dependence of self- evaluation on the determined pursuit (and achievement) of self-imposed, personally demanding standards of performance in at least one salient domain, despite the occurrence of adverse consequences

According to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy perfectionism stems from biased beliefs, assumptions, and predictions. For example:

“Anything less than sticking to my diet perfectly is a failure. If I eat one cookie, I may as well have eaten ten cookies.”

Some ways of thinking that may be problematic (Anthony, 2015) include:

  • Dichotomous (all-or-nothing) thinking – for example “If I start exercise it’s got to be seven days a week or it’s not worth it”
  • Should’s and musts – for example “I should go o the gym today”. In this example perhaps say “I WANT to go to the gym today” and pay attention to your feelings – they’ll let you know.
  • Selective attention (noticing the negative; discounting the positive) – this happens so often. Be mindful of where you allow your attention to wonder.
  • Overgeneralization – for example “I could NEVER do that”. Really??
  • Double standards – for example setting your own standards higher than those of others.

On a side note I found thee questions interesting (Anthony, 2015) re: challenging should statements:

  1. How does saying “should” to myself constantly make me feel? In what way does it impact on my sense of self?
  2. What impact might it have if I applied the sort of pressure I apply on myself to a close friend?

If you think you have a tendency for perfectionism, in area of life then there are many ways to work on this. Some questions include:

  1. Do my standards help me to achieve my goals or do they get in the way?
  2. What would be the costs of relaxing a particular standard or ignoring a rule that I have?
  3. What would be the benefits of relaxing a specific standard or ignoring a rule that I have?

Perfectionism Myths:

  1. The harder people work, the better they will do.
  2. To get ahead, you have to be single minded and give up all outside interests.
  3. The more you put into something, the more you get out of it.
  4. People can’t be happy if they’re not successful.
  5. If I avoid it, it tends to sort itself out.
  6. If a job’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing right.
  7. People notice every little detail and are quick to form critical judgments.

What does the research say:

“Our findings suggest that self-critical perfectionism is associated with loss of resilience of the neurobiological stress response system in chronic fatigue syndrome”. (Kempke et al., 2015)

“The findings suggest that junior athletes high in perfectionism may be at comparatively greater risk to burnout and that this may especially be the case when they perceive their parents to emphasize concerns about failure and winning without trying one’s best” (Gustafsson et al., 2015)

“These findings highlight the importance of targeting enduring heightened stress reactivity in order to reduce SC perfectionists’ vulnerability to depressive and anxious symptoms over the long term” (Mandel et al., 2015)

“Mindfulness meditation promotes relaxation following cognitive stress and that the perfectionist personality hinders relaxation possibly because of decreased cardiac vagal tone” (Azam et al., 2015)

So ask yourself…..

Is this mentality flexible?

Is this mentality helpful?

Is this mentality balanced?

Is this mentality logical and sensible?

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