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How Perfectionism Can Sabotage The Healing Process

Imperfection is actually the secret to success.

The dictionary definition of perfectionism is the refusal to accept anything short of perfection.

Perfectionism means that you are results-focused and hold yourself to impossibly high standards. [1] This creates an impossible version of reality that you will be unable to achieve, resulting in feelings of low self-esteem, frustration, stress, and anxiety.

Forms of perfectionism include:

  • Ruminating or procrastinating on events or situations
  • Wanting to control your personal and professional life
  • Setting goals that are impossible to achieve
  • Needing approval from others
  • Being scared to take action in case of imperfection
  • Having unrealistic standards of yourself
  • Fearing to make mistakes
  • Ignoring the positive

This toxic mindset creates a life of fear: fear of failure, fear of losing control, fear of not achieving your goals, fear of making mistakes and fear of not being enough.

Perfectionism and fear are married, and living in this constant state of negative emotion causes anxiety, mood symptoms, and stress which ultimately causes our bodies to become out of balance, thus avoiding homeostasis, which is essential for overall health. [2] [10] [11]

Living in this constant state of fear, stress, and anxiety activates our body’s flight or fight response and the release of a cascade of stress hormones. If activated repeatedly, this stress response can take its toll on our physical body. [3]

Repeated activation of the stress response triggers low-grade inflammation and further illness. Your migraines may begin to flare up or your gut symptoms may suddenly seem to feel worse. You are now fighting an uphill battle, all due to stress that affects your entire body. [4].

Cognitive Behavioral psychologists have classified perfectionism as a by-product of dysfunctional thinking. It causes many cognitive distortions such as all or nothing thinking, overgeneralization, blaming and labelling. [5]

Of course, there are several good qualities of perfectionism, such as self-efficiency and motivation. However, the majority of perfectionism tends to result in negative outcomes. [12]

Why Perfectionism Will Hinder Your Success

So why does perfectionism trigger your stress response and ultimately damage your physical health? It’s actually quite simple.

It all comes down to our expectations. And guess what? Our expectations are changeable and are completely up to us! If we want to change the physical response, it’s all about the mindset we choose going into circumstances and how we choose to perceive those circumstances.

When you constantly strive for perfection and your expectations are repeatedly not met, you will regularly feel emotions such as guilt, anxiety, low mood, inferiority, irritability, stress and low self-esteem.

However, when you accept life and its events as imperfect you will regularly feel calm, satisfaction, joy, happiness, contentment, self-love and self-worth.

Now, which set of emotions do you believe are going to support you through this healing process?

I agree! The latter, of course.

This explains why certain dimensions of perfectionism have been scientifically linked to things such as pathological worry, general anxiety disorders, eating disorders and depression. [5] [6] [7]

Perfectionism has also been linked to poor quality sleep; as migraine sufferers, we all know good sleep is essential when trying to reduce attacks. [8] [9]

As a result of exploring my own perfectionist tendencies, the realization I came to was this:

Perfectionism = Control

Control = Anxiety

Anxiety = Resistance

Resistance = Pain

When I made this realization, I knew something had to change. My perfectionist tendencies were no longer helping my progress, they were actually hindering it!

 

Sources

1 Perfectionism Defined Healthline
2 Emotions, Survival and Disconnect Psychology Today
3 Understanding The Stress Response Harvard Health
4 Effects of Chronic Stress To Your Health Dr. Mercola
5 Your Best Life: Perfectionism—The Bane of Happiness 
6 The relationships between perfectionism, pathological worry, and generalized anxiety
7 Is perfect good? – Dimensions of perfectionism in newly admitted medical students
8 Perfectionism and Polysomnography-Determined Markers of Poor Sleep
9 Associations Between Sleep Quality and Migraine Frequency
10 How To Be An Imperfectionist by Stephen Guise, Book published 22nd May 2015 by Selective Entertainment.
11 Does perfectionism in bipolar disorder pedigrees mediate associations between anxiety/stress and mood symptoms?
12 Clarifying the construct of perfectionism

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