Do you pride yourself in being a perfectionist? If so, you’re not alone. Many people consider themselves a perfectionist and they see this as a good thing. After all, perfectionism keeps your standards high, and it’s the reason why you do so well. But now, research is revealing a very different side of being a perfectionist. And it’s not that great.
A meta-analysis of perfectionism rates showed that there are more perfectionistic tendencies now than 20 years ago. And with this increase in perfectionism, you would expect more and more accomplishments.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true. In fact, the more researchers study perfectionists, the more they find psychological disorders, like depression, anxiety, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, PTSD, agoraphobia, chronic fatigue and chronic headaches, and even suicide.
But why is being a perfectionist connected to so many psychological disorders? Isn’t perfectionism a positive thing? Research is saying no.
Sarah Egan, a senior researcher at Curtin University in Perth, says that “There are studies that suggest that the higher the perfectionism is, the more psychological disorders you’re going to suffer.”
Is this because it’s just so hard to meet the high standards in perfectionism?
According to Andrew Hill, the researcher behind the perfectionism meta-analysis, “Perfectionism isn’t about high standards. It’s about unrealistic standards. Perfectionism isn’t a behavior. It’s a way of thinking about yourself.”
And unfortunately, perfectionists tend to have a very negative opinion of themselves. Instead of building themselves up, they beat themselves up. Instead of looking at mistakes as areas to improve, they see them as a reflection of their value and worth.
Perfectionists often listen to a mean inner voice, a critic, who makes them reach not for high standards but unrealistic standards. And it gets complicated when perfectionists intertwine their work and performance with their sense of self.
This can lead to burn out and the psychological disorders listed above.