For me, perfectionism is striving to excel in every situation; whether this be writing an address on an envelope, completing a dissertation, driving a car or parenting a child. This seeps into all areas of my life, where I have created unrealistic expectations which are impossible to meet.
Inevitably, when my reality does not match up to my expectations, I experience an inflated sense of disappointment in myself, and feelings of worthlessness. It is therefore not hard to see the link between depression and perfectionism.
The issue with perfectionism is that everything must be ‘just so’. It becomes impossible to be decisive for fear of making the wrong decision, or we may refuse to even to make the decision at all. Avoidance is a common coping strategy for perfectionists, especially for myself.
My streak of perfectionism was highlighted when I was only 6 years old, by my first teacher, who was shocked at my inability to complete a piece of work because as soon as I made a mistake I would throw away my piece of paper and begin all over.
There a variety of traits that go along with this journey for perfection, all of which I suffer with, including;
- Being eager to please
- Being a procrastinator
- Being highly critical of others
- Obsessing over small mistakes
- Handling criticism poorly.
We live in a culture that values perfection and leads us to believe doing things perfectly leads to happiness and success, however this is not always the case.