Perfectionism: Unmask the Causes, Recognize the Symptoms, and Liberate Yourself from its Grip
Perfectionism is a real issue for entrepreneurs. You created your business to fill a gap in the market. And, besides, you may be thinking to yourself, “Ain’t nobody going to do it as well as I could!”
While having a strong work ethic is admirable, it can easily bleed into perfectionism. Perfectionism can cause some serious problems with your relationships and ultimately, your performance at work.
As a life and business coach, I want to support you. That’s why, in this article, we are going to talk about the signs of perfectionism, underachieving, and how you can gain a healthy perspective of your identity and worth as a valuable human being.
First, let’s talk about signs you may be in the perfectionism zone.
Signs of Perfectionism
“My butt was going numb, my hands were aching and I was feeling hungry, but I refused to leave my chair until the work was perfect!”
I cannot tell you how many times I have experienced this or heard this statement from clients over the years.
You know you have issues surrounding perfectionism when you:
- Have a standard for yourself that you cannot even attain.
- Feel compelled to triple-check your work each and every time.
- Rarely or ever ask for help because nobody can do it as well as you.
- Can’t sleep through the night because your mind is racing with all the things you missed, failed to do, or reminding yourself of past criticism.
- Are overwhelmed with the idea of starting anything new because you know it will be all-consuming.
- Suffer from fears, anxieties, or worries that your work will not be received with anything short of praise and adoration.
“But, I have standards, Denise!”
Yes, love, I know you have standards.
We all should have standards for excellence.
We should have a level of self-respect for the work we create.
But self-respect is not the same as having a deep fear of criticism, self-loathing, and unrealistic expectations for yourself and others.
Some of y'all are letting perfectionism RUIN YOUR LIFE.— Denise Lee (@DeniseGLee) August 10, 2023
Rules for this.
Procedures for that.
So many damn rules you can't enjoy anything, including yourself at times.
Perfectionism is a trauma response.
You see, you had to be perfect to avoid being yelled at, criticized,…
Psychological and biological reasons for seeking perfection
You may already know that being perfect is impossible, but insecurities and fears have a sneaky way of creeping in and sabotaging everything you strive for.
You might be wondering why you constantly want to push yourself to compete at such an unattainable level, both with yourself and others.
Perfectionism has various psychological and biological aspects. It’s worth mentioning because some of us find ourselves in a constant state of despair, oscillating between depression and anxiety.
Psychological reason for perfectionism
Studies have proven that perfectionism is a trauma response, where being perfect was a survival tactic to avoid being yelled at, criticized, condemned, shamed, or ostracized.
Even though the people who impose these expectations might be physically distant, their voices still echo in your head, urging you to ‘be perfect,’ ‘hurry up,’ ‘try harder,’ ‘be strong,’ and ‘please others.’ These are the Five Drivers, as described by American psychologist, Dr. Taibi Kahler. Each one has the power to drive a person to overwhelming anxiety and a sense of being overwhelmed, which can lead to becoming an underachiever.
The underachiever – the cost of perfectionism
Underachieving is a common issue that many individuals seeking perfection experience due to various reasons. One of the significant factors that contributes to this problem is negative self-talk.
This negative messaging or self-talk can stem from past failures, criticisms, or rejections that a person has encountered, leaving them feeling flawed and inadequate. As a result, you may develop a fear of disappointment and rejection, which intensifies their feelings of inadequacy.
Fear of rejection
The fear of rejection may cause the avoidance of new experiences, and taking fewer risks to protect yourself from further disappointment. Consequently, this avoidance reinforces underdeveloped skills, creating a cycle of inadequacy and missed opportunities.
Your emotional and professional growth may be hindered due to negative self-beliefs perpetuating your underachievement. Therefore, it is essential to break free from negative messaging to overcome the fear of disappointment, rejection and allow yourself to take risks, unlock your full potential, and achieve success.
Biological reasons for perfectionism
High standards for yourself and striving for flawlessness, can have various biological factors contributing to its development. While there isn’t a single biological reason for perfectionism, it’s believed to involve complex interactions between genetics, brain chemistry, and other physiological processes.
Here are some biological factors that may contribute to perfectionism:
Research suggests that genetics may play a role in predisposing individuals to perfectionistic tendencies. Certain genes related to personality traits and risk for anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders could influence a person’s inclination toward perfectionism.
Neurotransmitters like serotonin, which regulate mood and anxiety, may also be involved. Some studies have linked perfectionism to variations in serotonin function. An imbalance in neurotransmitters could contribute to the anxiety and obsession with achieving perfection.
3. Brain Structure and Function
Brain imaging studies have shown differences in brain structure and function in individuals with perfectionistic tendencies. The brain regions associated with decision-making, self-evaluation, and emotional regulation may be involved. For example, the prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in executive functions, may be overactive in perfectionists.
4. Dopamine and Reward System
Perfectionists may experience a heightened sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when they meet their high standards. This could be related to the dopamine reward system in the brain, which reinforces their perfectionistic behaviors. The short videos explains how the dopamine reward system works.
Hormonal fluctuations, such as those related to stress (e.g., cortisol), could also contribute to perfectionism. Chronic stress and high levels of cortisol are associated with anxiety and obsessive tendencies, which can reinforce perfectionistic behaviors.
Perfectionism is a complex trait with both positive and negative aspects. While it can drive individuals to achieve high levels of success, it can also lead to significant stress, anxiety, and a reduced quality of life when taken to extremes.
You don’t have to live miserably.
It is a choice.
Breaking through from perfectionism requires that you become aware of how you speak about yourself, the motivations behind your work, and how you view yourself. Only then can you break free from the tyranny of meeting an almost impossible standard.
Your emotional support options
Treatment options for perfectionism often involve a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and stress management techniques to help you manage your perfectionistic tendencies and lead healthier, more balanced life.
If you need help understanding yourself in a healthy and positive way, don’t hesitate to contact me.