The Dark Side Of Perfectionism (And How To Stop Being A Perfectionist)

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The Dark Side Of Perfectionism (And How To Stop Being A Perfectionist)

Depending on who you ask, people may consider perfectionism to be a strength or a weakness. 

Throughout my time as an excellence-seeking perfectionist (meaning I have high standards for myself and the people in my life), I have found it to be a weakness. 

The other kind of perfectionists — failure-avoiding — are concerned with their own desire to succeed for fear of not being good enough in the eyes of others. 

However you identify, it’s safe to say that there are both pros and cons to being a perfectionist. 

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If you’re like me, I’m sure you give 100% to the tasks you complete. And you probably have many aspirations that keep you on your toes. 

On the contrary, you might find yourself struggling with disappointment and high levels of anxiety. 

Since nothing can truly be perfect, the never-ending cycle of attempt and assumed failure brings about negative emotions for perfectionists. 

While there may be some positives to perfectionism, it’s clear that the bad will always outweigh the good. 

6 Dark Sides of Perfectionism 

1. Negative self-talk

Have you ever heard the expression “I am my own worst critic?” Well, nothing could be more true for someone who’s a perfectionist. 

Every little mistake will warrant some self-hatred that can’t be unheard. Sometimes without even noticing, I’m being mean to myself. 

Instead of building myself up after a failure, I tear myself down because there shouldn’t have been any failure in the first place. 

2. High levels of stress, burnout, and anxiety

Since perfectionists are heavily concerned with getting everything perfect the first time around, we are constantly overworking ourselves. 

As a result, we will be stressed, experience burnout, and have high levels of anxiety. It takes a toll adhering to the desires of perfectionism. 

Studies also show that perfectionism is related to detrimental work and non-work outcomes, such as workaholism and depression

3. Relationship problems

For many like myself, perfectionism doesn’t just affect ourselves. As a matter of fact, it can have negative consequences on the relationships we hold. 

With such high standards for those around us, it can feel like we are never going to be satisfied. I have seen this in my almost two-year relationship with my boyfriend. 

More than once I have made him feel like he isn’t good enough — even without trying. My perfectionist antics get in the way of the love and support I’d like to be giving. 

4. Disregard for physical health

Although this might not affect everyone, a Swedish study discovered that 70% of patients with insomnia had higher scores than normal on perfectionism. 

There have also been links to perfectionists accounting for many of the people with heart disease, persistent headaches, and compulsive eating or drinking. 

The high levels of stress and lack of self-respect may begin to take a toll on physical health for those who struggle with perfectionism. 

5. Difficulty finding happiness

Perfectionists are very focused on the unattainable. While they may seem like realistic goals, the truth is, the search for perfection never ends. 

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We may not ever get what we truly want because it probably doesn’t exist. That said, finding happiness is not an easy feat. 

Due to the inability to let go of what we can’t control, we might feel a gray cloud over our heads at all times. 

6. Experience imposter syndrome

Distorted comparisons to people who are not on the same level cause another facet of disappointment for perfectionists. 

The International Journal of Behavioral Science found that 70% of people fear they will be exposed as a fraud despite the evidence that they have essential competencies. 

This is particularly common among perfectionists who feel that they continually fall short and suffer from immense self-doubt

When you’re stuck in the cycle of perfectionism, it can feel like there’s no way out. But this is far from the truth!

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How to stop being a perfectionist:

1. Acknowledge that you wrestle with perfectionism

The first step to solving any problem, is recognizing that it exists. By doing this, you can understand that perhaps your way of thinking isn’t correct. 

It will be easier to work on the steps to follow if you have acknowledgement of what’s going on. A clear state of mind will allow you to make the changes necessary. 

In addition, the power of perfectionism will be less strong as you identify how and when it presents itself within your life. 

2. Challenge negative thoughts

The best thing to do when negative emotions and self-talk surface, is to challenge it. Turn your way of thinking around and speak to yourself with a kinder approach. 

If you go off your diet and say to yourself “I’m so fat,” shut the negativity down as fast as it appears. Instead say, “This is part of the journey and tomorrow’s a new day.”

When we become better at not letting the negativity stick, we’ll be more likely to begin with positive thoughts and affirmations. 

3. Seek help if necessary 

Seeing a counselor to help guide me through the tricks and tendencies of my perfectionism was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

It’s not always easy to make change without help. So there’s no shame in finding someone who can take a little weight off your shoulders. 

Ultimately, this person will force you to see things you might have been avoiding and alter your perspective on things. 

4. Work on changing your expectations

At the root of perfectionism, is the belief that what you’re looking for from yourself and others is absolute. However, this is not always the case. 

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself if your expectations are realistic. If not, figure out how you can change them to be something that is not so impossible. 

Despite a lot of work and mind control, there is a light at the end of perfectionism. Although it may take some time, you will one day be free from the dark side. 

RELATED: 5 Ways To Ease Unhealthy Perfectionism

Isabella Pacinelli is a writer who covers relationship, self-love, spirituality, and entertainment topics.