At first glance you might consider “perfectionism” to be a positive, desirable personality trait. I have seen an uptick in children and teens who struggle with perfectionism and the ensuing anxiety and stress that usually come with it. Increasingly in our high-pressured, competitive, winner-take-all society, we are constantly being exposed to people who seem “successful” because they hold extremely high expectations for achievement and equate that with happiness and security.
People with perfectionism believe that they are valuable only because of what they do for other people or what they achieve. Unfortunately, it can lead to self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that make it harder to reach one’s goals.
Teens who feel pressured to take numerous AP classes (and get straight A’s), attend elite universities, or excel in (too many) sports, usually wind up experiencing low self-esteem, and become less productive, worried youth, because in their mind “perfect” is the only standard that matters.
When you are focused on what isn’t “perfect” you rob yourself of ever feeling “good enough.” Stress, anxiety, procrastination, depression, eating disorders and other mental health issues including self-harm are some harmful consequences of perfectionism.
In his book, The Feeling Good handbook, David Burns describes these five beliefs.
You are motivated by the fear of failure or by sense of duty.
You feel driven to be number one, but your accomplishments, however great, never seem to satisfy you.
You feel you must earn your self-esteem. You think you must be very “special” or intelligent or successful to be loved and accepted by others.
You are terrified by failure. If you do not achieve an important goal, you feel like a failure as a human being.
You think you must always be strong and in control of your emotions. You are reluctant to share vulnerable feelings like sadness, insecurity, or anger with others. You believe they would think less of you.
Perfectionism can make you feel unhappy with your life and can be a stubborn guest in your mind. Let me help you feel and accept “good enough!”