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Perfectionism causes burnout

Perfectionism is being demanding towards yourself

Are you demanding towards yourself? Do you have high standards and feel like only perfection is good enough? Do you judge yourself, your performances, or other people? Do you feel rewarded only if your achievements are appreciated? If your answer is yes, you might have harmful perfectionism.

Perfectionism is the will to perform as well as possible or believing that perfection is something worth achieving to fix your own imperfections. The term “perfectionism” can have two distinct types: “healthy” and “neurotic”.

In healthy perfectionism, your ambitions, goals, and norms are reasonable. They encourage you to perform well and you’re satisfied when reaching them. You feel like you have self-worth and are a good person even if you won’t achieve perfection.

Neurotic perfectionism is characterized by unachievable goals and norms and a great fear of failing. You have trouble accepting incompleteness or mediocre performance. You feel like there’s always a need to fix or improve your performance and you feel bad about small mistakes or shortcomings. Taking up challenges frightens you because of your fear of failure, which might lead to avoiding tasks. You’re unable to take on things because you’re afraid of failure or mistakes. To you, failure or mistakes are weaknesses which make you feel even more worthless.   

Examples of perfectionistic behaviour

  • Meticulousness and having a good eye for detail
  • Inflexibility
  • Conscientiousness
  • Being self-critical or critical towards others
  • Feeling minor criticism is crushing or personal. You often take constructive criticism as negative.
  • The will to be in control and reluctance to give up control
  • Unwillingness to delegate

Unreasonable goals and demands towards yourself can be exhausting. Perfectionism can cause anxiety, tension, stress, pressure in relationships and feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. These feelings might lead to depression and eating disorders.  

What causes perfectionism and how to ease it?

There can be many reasons why perfectionist behaviour develops. Not all the factors are known, but genetics, childhood environment and environmental factors play a role.

It might be difficult to admit to having perfectionist behaviour. Admitting it may feel embarrassing because perfectionism is about striving for perfection. Letting go of unrealistic demands requires recognising and admitting your situation. 

If you notice perfectionistic behavior:

  • Stop and listen to your body and how you feel and try to become more compassionate towards yourself. There’s no need to be energetic and perform all the time because we all need rest and relaxing.
  • Remember that everyone has a right to slip up and fail, it doesn’t make anyone a bad person.
  • Stop and listen to your thoughts. Are they demanding, such as “everyone else is better at this than I am” or “I should be able to complete all my courses with excellent grades”? Try to change your thoughts into more supportive ones for instance by setting realistic goals.
  • Give yourself good feedback: at the end of the day, try to remember what went well today and what you’ve accomplished. When doing this, avoid could haves and excuses.
  • Be mindful of the cornerstones of your everyday life: sleep, exercise, nutrition, and pleasant activities.
  • Learn new ways. You can practice a relaxed, slip-up tolerating attitude by doing small everyday tasks quick and sloppily.

More information online

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