Perfectionism and your wellbeing

The Problem With Being Perfect

Perfectionists idealise themselves, the world, and the people in it.  Perfectionism and your wellbeing go hand in hand. We set standards that are impossible to attain every time.  Our failure to live up to these expectations causes negative feelings that damage self-esteem, stunt our emotional growth, and close us off from personal experiences and other people (deep connection).  We try to control people and events but are frustrated despite our best efforts because many things in life are beyond anyone’s command.

There are voices all around us saying we should be as perfect as possible.  Winning is everything: “Your brother did better than that” “Why don’t you have a job like his?” “Nobody else needs as much help as you do”. We forget it is impossible to always please others, and we begin to think less of ourselves when we fail.  We may not even be able to see how our expectations have made our lives unmanageable.

As perfectionists, we often consider ourselves worthless when we don’t achieve our goals.  High set goals!!! Anxiety and depression result from the low self-esteem we feel after a personal defeat.  It’s easy to be frustrated and angry when we think life is not going as it should.  Self-criticism is inevitable when we feel we must constantly succeed in order to prove our worth as individuals.  We of course focus so strongly on self-criticism that we cannot admit our successes.  We become disillusioned when our self-worth is tied to a losing struggle to meet an unattainable ideal.  And we withdraw from life because we cannot find any guarantee of success.

This withdrawal is often caused by fear of failure.  We refrain from activities if there’s a chance we may not succeed.  We are unwilling to take risks for fear of making mistakes.  By doing only familiar things and now making new discoveries, we narrow our world and become bored.  This withdrawal and self-concern keeps us from changing and growing even when we clearly need to do so.

Perfectionism and your wellbeing is featured in all areas of our lives. Do we avoid conversations at work or in social situations because we are afraid of being considered ignorant? Do we refuse to participate in sports, passions or other activities because others may see us as clumsy? Are we so rigid in our likes and dislikes that we’re not open to listening to new kinds of music, reading books outside our interest, or eating unfamiliar types of food because we might not like them? People come to know and appreciate us through sharing experiences.  If we stay in a small, safe world we only cut ourselves off from others and from the growth we could gain from new experiences.

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The habit of procrastination is another form of our fear of failure.  If we think we must perform our tasks perfectly, all too often we put off even trying.  When we attempt to do everything as thoroughly as possible, nothing gets done because we build the task up in our minds to the point that it appears impossible.  A too-casual approach can also be procrastination; if we only go through the motions in order to avoid failure we make ourselves unhappy with our performance.

Not really trying to accomplish something because we’re already convinced we will fail reflects our low self-esteem.  Many of us work as salespeople in that we need to convince others to buy a product or service, or accept an idea. Perfectionism and your wellbeing is in your business, relationships, family and even effects your sleep.

Whether we are selling merchandise or presenting suggestions to our employer, we need to be able to risk failure.  We get better by trying, even though we don’t always succeed.  If we don’t really try to convince customers a product is good, or try to show why our idea is better, we end up behind our sales counters or desks going through the motions of working, using the minimum amount of effort.  This damages our self respect further because we don’t feel we are making a contribution or that our work is meaningful.  Putting off trying because we think things will somehow magically get better is just an excuse for doing nothing. 

For more information on Perfectionism and your wellbeing or our depression wellness program call +27824424779 or email

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