Seeking perfectionism is like chasing rainbows, and that’s why it’s driving women like me towards insanity.
Having high standards and paying attention to detail are seen as good things though, right? Wrong. It can actually have an extremely negative impact on our professional and personal lives. For me personally, I find it completely exhausting. Recent studies including one from the Journal of Psychosomatic Institute found that perfectionists had more day-to-day fatigue than night-shift workers. There is also a more extreme form of obsessive perfectionism which takes us beyond being tired and leads to more serious problems such as OCD, anxiety and depression.
Perfectionism doesn’t necessarily mean having an immaculate house as is commonly perceived. It means that you have traits such as: extreme concern over mistakes and exacting attention to detail, feeling little joy in achievements, pathological worry and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
GAD is a constant low-level anxiety. Imagine the ‘butterflies in your stomach’ feeling when you’re nervous or excited, but on a permanent basis. I’ve taken numerous courses of anxiety medication, tried homeopathic remedies, CBT and meditation. Many people prefer to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to take the ‘edge’ off.
Another common trait, as mentioned above, is feeling little joy in achievement. Once something is ticked off my list, whether it be finishing writing a book or getting a qualification, I’m immediately looking for what’s next and not enjoying the attainment. This constant climb is driven by the fear of failure biting at my heels.
So why am I like this? Well, there are a multitude of causes but it usually stems from pressure and/or criticism from a young age. For me it’s linked to only-child syndrome. Various studies have shown that only-children are more ambitious that children with siblings. This is in part because all parental pressure and expectations are aimed solely at them. Acting as the first and last born in a family, the only child takes on a multitude of roles and responsibilities unlike those of any other sibling.
On top of this my relationship was only child- single parent, which was very intense. Especially with a mother who clambered her way up from the social underclass, being brought up in the care system and determined to provide me with everything she didn’t have. Wanting to make her proud and mirror her high achievements is a definitely contributing factor.
I’ve been told by various professionals and self-help books that I can break from this pattern by being compassionate towards myself and letting go of any negative emotions. ‘Take the moment present as a present for the moment’ is my new mantra. Stressing about the past and worrying about the future doesn’t make anybody happy, this moment is always perfect and I’m trying to condition myself to live in it. Letting go and stopping catastrophizing is my aim and the small progress I’ve made so far is already beginning to liberate me from this ridiculous need to be perfect.
5 signs that you’re a perfectionist
- You often assign too much meaning to mistakes in the past and anticipate bad situations and negative outcomes in the future.
- When things are not going well, you feel that you must be perfect in order to get things back on schedule.
- You feel as though you should always be busy.
- You feel completely responsible for things that didn’t work out.
- You don’t get any sensation of fulfilment after achieving something.
*** About Hollie Weatherstone ***
Hollie Weatherstone is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.
She is a passionate blogger at hollieweatherstone.blogspot.com
“Writing and editing for the 3rdi alongside simply reading and learning from the fantastic community of people who write for the magazine has definitely helped me with my career. Teaching has been my bread and butter for the past few years but recently I was looking for a new challenge and got a job in social media and press relations which was in part due to all of my additional work and skills gained from my ongoing involvement with this publication. I think it’s really important today for young women to be enterprising and the 3rdi Magazine is full of interesting articles, interviews and tips from influential women around the world alongside having an established online network which provides for many opportunities.”