Why the Habit of Perfectionism Increases Your Risk of Anxiety and Depression
Perfectionism targets people who live to please others and their mission in life is to make everyone happy at even the cost of their own happiness. Perfection is a cage that we lock ourselves into and throw away the key. Perfectionism is an increasing habit that research is finding to compromise your mental health by increasing your risk of anxiety and depression.
Is a B+ unacceptable to you? Does messiness make you fall apart? Does the mere suggestion of failure nauseate you?
You may be a victim of perfectionism. Perfectionism contributes to a crisis of identity. It denies you the right to be and forces you to become. Our culture has affected young minds for several decades as we have continued to spiral down a vortex of ideals where nothing less than perfection is acceptable.
Psychological Bulletin Study
A study conducted by the Pyschological Bulletin reported that perfectionism is an increasing obsession triggering a rise of anxiety and depression. Over the last several decades perfectionism has increased amongst British, Canadian, and American college students. However, perfectionistic standards were highest amongst the American students.
Dr. Barbara Greenburg drew attention to the point that America’s millennials face increased pressure from the development of social media and the constant evaluation it incurs. Teens are confronted daily with blatant images on magazines, social media, and TV that scream imperfection at their lack of curves and six-packs. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
According to the study: “Research among college students and young people, for example, has found self-oriented perfectionism to be positively associated with clinical depression, anorexia nervosa, and early death. It is also associated with greater physiological reactivity (e.g., elevated blood pressure) and ill-being (e.g., negative affect) in response to life stress and value.”
The study also found positive relations between perfectionism and these disorders:
• Social phobia
• Body Dissatisfaction
• Bulimia nervosa
• Suicide Ideation
The study found that the greatest of these relationships proved to be anxiety and depression. Perfectionism is a shadow lurking in the lives of many young people, determined to prey on their vulnerabilities and destroy them.
My Moment of Truth
As a sufferer of chronic perfectionism for many years I can testify personally that this attitude did indeed increase my anxiety. This anxiety affected many, if not all, aspects of my life whether they were social, academic, or personal pursuits.
When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis it was the beginning of many changes in my life. One of them was kissing perfectionism goodbye. I do at times revert to this habit, but I don’t live in a perpetual state. Perfectionism no longer governs my life.
I remember I got out a sheet of paper and my sketching pencils to do a self-conceived exercise to abandon my habit of perfectionism. All of my prior sketches had been as close to perfect as I could possibly get them. I grabbed a postcard of Paris and propped it up close. Then I told myself I was not allowed to use the eraser. Any and all mistakes I would have to accept. With white-knuckled fingers I grasped the pencil and began to draw. The longer I scribbled the more relaxed I became. I took a deep breath as I stared down at my crooked buildings, warped windows, and leaning Eiffel Tower. A sense of freedom flooded me as I reached out and smudged a few harsh lines. I embraced the blurry imperfection of that sketch. In that moment I gave myself permission to be messy and recognized my right to self-expression that didn’t conform to any expectations other than my own.
What about you? In 2018 are you going to embrace imperfection? Acceptance is the only key that sets us free because every single one of us was created for a special purpose only we can fulfill. I challenge you as the New Year looms to deny perfectionism the ability to force you into becoming and accept your right to simply be.
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