Merriam-Webster defines Perfectionism as “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable, especially the setting of unrealistic demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.” The need to be perfect can exact a heavy toll on one’s mental health, leading to struggles with anxiety, depression and/or dysthymia (a lower grade depression). Perfectionists may believe that what they do is never enough, and it is this core belief that perpetuates feelings of inadequacy or self-loathing.
It can be said that perfectionists are often their worst critic, succumbing to an inner voice, an inner-dialogue that speaks to the need to do things a certain way, and if they are not done according to the highest of standards, one has simply “failed at the task.” This need to do things a certain way can also, paradoxically, lead one to not try at all, for what is the point in attempting any task if it will lead to failure?
The Quest for Perfectionism
Where does the need to be Perfect originate? Most likely, it came from early life experiences. Much of our personality, including the way in which we view ourselves and the world around us, takes root in these earlier years when we are most impressionable. Still largely dependent on our parents (or other significant caregivers) to meet our basic needs for food, shelter, and security, we are beholden to them for our early survival. It is this need for survival that leads to the adoption of parental viewpoints that begin to shape the way we view ourselves and the world around us.
Much of what we come to believe in later years has been ingrained into us through these early role models. Regardless of whether they continue to hold true today, most of our current thoughts and beliefs were shaped by the messages we received in these early years. Some of these thoughts and beliefs become “fact” without ever challenging their validity in light of today’s reality. So, we continue to act as if they are based on truth even though they may no longer serve us. Such may be the case with our belief in the Need to be Perfect.
Why do we strive to be perfect?
In our society, perfectionism is often viewed as the mark of excellence and high achievement. To be the Best is to stand apart from the rest. By comparison, all else is Mediocre. Visions of perfection are found in magazines and marketing campaigns, to get you to buy one product or another. These so-called “Influencers” tell us that we need to buy this or that in order to achieve the perfect look or the perfect life. Anything less would mean selling ourselves short!
And so, in following their lead, our thoughts and beliefs become shaped by these external Gods of Goddesses that offer us a glimpse into their vibrant World where nothing is beyond attainment if only you are willing to listen to and follow what they have to say. And just as you may have clung onto every thought and belief absorbed through early life experience (through your parents and other role models), so too, you continue to be driven by thoughts and beliefs from today’s Influencers — without question, without challenge.
So, what is the Cost of Needing to be Perfect? It is the loss of Joy, loss of Purpose, loss of Belonging and Love.
You don’t have to go it alone
Depression, sadness, anxiety disorders, stress, and worry can make it difficult to find happiness in your life. We all need support at different times in our lives. Most of our clients seek help when their current way of dealing with life’s challenges no longer works for them. With a caring, non-judgmental and solution-focused approach, we will explore your issues and challenges in a safe therapeutic environment at our private practice in Delray Beach, Florida.
We also offer remote online therapy from the comfort and security of home that will allow you to learn more effective ways of managing your anxiety and stress.
Let’s walk the path to freedom from depression and anxiety together. If you’re ready to let go of the sadness, depression, fears, worries, and anxieties that are making life difficult, check out our Anxiety & Depression Support Group hosted the 1st Tuesday of each month at the Counseling Center for Growth and Recovery.