Are you a perfectionist? Aiming for a standard of perfection might be impacting your health in ways you don’t expect.
If you have any tendency to try to be perfect, it can show up in all areas of your life. See if any of these are familiar to you:
· Are you striving to be the perfect parent and always do the right thing for your kids?
· Are you trying to follow all of your family’s expectations perfectly?
· Do you feel like you have to follow the highest standards at work and show no imperfections?
· Are you trying to avoid mistakes at all costs?
Anytime you are trying to be perfect, you are trying to follow a standard that doesn’t give you any space to be creative or to be you. In addition, being a perfectionist can have significant health implications.
Let’s take a look at three reasons your perfectionism may be damaging your health.
Reason #1: Perfectionism Creates Pressure
Think about the specific situations in which your perfectionism shows up, and consider these questions:
· How do you feel and how does your body feel when you’re trying to be perfect?
· Do you feel under pressure when you’re trying to be perfect?
· Are you more stressed or more relaxed when you’re under pressure?
Reason #2: Perfectionism is Stressful for Your Mind
When you worry whether you’re good enough or feel compelled to follow a high standard, it can be very stressful. You constantly have to judge whether you are achieving what you want to be achieving or not—every action and word go through a judgment filter. It’s taxing to always be judging whether you’re doing things right or wrong.
In addition, perfectionism is additive. If you struggle with it in your workplace today, it’s like a hamster wheel that you can’t get out of, and tomorrow you’ll be adding onto it. Each time you try to be perfect, you’re setting that standard for yourself that you then have to continue. Judgment keeps piling up.
This constant pressure to be perfect more easily leads to burnout. Though burnout tends to be associated with the workplace, you can be burned out about anything. If you’re feeling tired of being around your family, check to see if you’re actually tired of trying to be perfect. If you find yourself engaging in escapist behaviors, you might question whether you’re putting pressure on yourself in some area of your life, perhaps your body.
Reason #3 Perfectionism is Stressful for Your Body
Anytime you have continuous mental stress, it is going to take a toll on your body as well. You may notice certain body signals occur with specific situations, such as:
· Experiencing tension in your shoulders after a day at work.
· Getting a headache every time you’re with your parents.
· Waking up at night feeling anxious before a big event.
If you’re not used to listening closely to your body, you may not notice the small twinges and tensions that creep in, which are your body alerting you that a change is necessary.
The remedy for the health implications of perfectionism is to become aware and notice the early signs of it. It’s never too late to change your perfectionist tendencies! Once you notice you’re in that stressful pattern, you can choose to do something that relaxes you again, that takes you out of your mind and judgments about whether you’re meeting those standards. Perhaps take a walk or a bath, listen to music, write in a journal, or do something to decompress.
When you’re more relaxed, reflect on whether you need to go to that level of perfectionism. Ask yourself, “What would be good enough in that situation?” Inquire into what you’re afraid will happen if you’re not perfect. What if that wasn’t true? Use that question as a tool—every time you’re afraid something will happen if you’re less than perfect, ask, “What if that wasn’t so?” You can even do small, safe experiments to test your assumptions.
How much is perfectionism a burden on you and your body? What might be possible if you let go of the need to be perfect? Being a perfectionist leads to stagnating instead of creating—the creativity of imperfection is a way to re-energize yourself mentally and emotionally. Practice letting go, and trust that things will be fine even if you aren’t perfect. There are always greater possibilities than you think there are. Your body and mind will thank you!