History and intuition often tell us that to be a perfectionist is to be perfect — or that perfectionists land their dream job, start their own businesses or reach #GirlBoss status more than people who aren’t as keen on being flawless. And while being a perfectionist might help you keep it all together at work, Laura Heck, a licensed marriage and family therapist, cautions against striving to be completely unflawed.
Where does perfectionism come from?
According to Heck, perfectionism can be internal, external or societal. Internal perfectionism simply comes from pressures you put on yourself. External pressures such as critical parents or friends can cause you to become a perfectionist in order to reach their standards. Society can also create perfectionism — where, as Heck puts it, “We try to reach the status quo and relieve the anxiety of not feeling good enough.”
On a societal level, pressures from our cultures or even location can cause us to become a perfectionist. For example, Asian cultures and cities on the American coasts generally put more pressure on people to look and act a certain way, Heck said. The first step to curbing your perfectionism is learning where it comes from.
What perfectionism ACTUALLY does to us
Although perfectionism is rooted in a plethora of places, it has similar effects on everyone. Many people contend that perfectionism drives us to be better versions of ourselves—but Heck feels that it can actually have the opposite result.
Rather than pushing you to be your best self, Heck says that perfectionism actually puts pressure on you by convincing you that you’re not good enough. The paradox of perfectionism is that it drives us to be perfect — a goal which, in and of itself, is inherently unattainable. Perfectionism sets us up for failure before we even begin trying. For this reason, perfectionists are much more at risk for eating disorders and anxiety.
How to curb your perfectionism
Rather than reaching for the moon knowing that you’ll miss, Heck recommends accepting yourself and your abilities. “You’re okay as you are in this very moment,” she said. “Accepting yourself as you are is a much healthier place to be.”
There are a couple of ways you can curb your perfectionism. Primarily, your goal should be to change the messages you send yourself: Rather than saying, “I’m not good enough,” work on being okay with where you’re at — whether you’re talking about appearances, your career or even friendship. Heck says that a great way to get started is to reach out to a therapist. She also recommends yoga, which teaches self-acceptance.
Have any tips on curbing perfectionism? Let us know @BritandCo!
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