Is your perfectionism making you miserable?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been setting myself impossible tasks as a way to “test” my limitations, commitments and abilities.

When I returned to Australia aged nine (after living in Poland for six years) I wanted to learn English as quickly as possible to stop feeling like a joke, a failure who couldn’t even participate in “show and tell”. As a highschool student, grades below 90 per cent were unacceptable; at university, while it appeared that I’d grudgingly learnt to accept distinctions, secretly I seethed at my self-perceived incompetence.

And now, aged 33, I have finally come to a period of my life over which I have literally no control. I always suspected that pregnancy would be difficult: I have never been one to embrace going with the flow, and accepting that my mental and physical states will be at the whim of a tiny foetus for almost a year has not been an easy ride.

COVID-19 lockdowns have, unfortunately, only reinforced my perfectionism, and during last year’s long, bleak Melbourne winter, I thought the only way to get through it was to use the endless time to achieve my dreams of becoming a painter, an illustrator, a great essayist.

And while the second time round I’ve somewhat relaxed, it’s still difficult to face a long period of unstructured free time and be OK with just… squandering it.

It seems I’m not alone. Last year was marked by what University of New South Wales’ professor of educational psychology Andrew Martin calls “fairly outward demonstrations of coping really well” on social media.

“We saw a lot of people posting about their perfect sourdough and other polished versions of themselves taking advantage of the extra time in lockdown,” he says. “And even though we know rationally that it’s a polished version, we still internalise it and compare ourselves to that version.”

While Martin says this social media posturing of success has somewhat abated this year (which is not necessarily a good thing – it shows that people are struggling too much to even pretend) he says this type of perfectionism, called socially-prescribed perfectionism (i.e. holding beliefs that they need to be perfect in order to be socially accepted) has increased with the rise of social media platforms.

“We have seen this paradox during COVID: while people are showing that they are coping on social media, in private they aren’t, but because they see others who look like they’re learning Latin, reading poetry and raising perfect children while working, they are feeling like they should be doing better, too,” Martin says.

Trying to look successful has always existed, as has, to a degree, perfectionism. But what hasn’t always been around is the 24/7, real-time pressure on social media to look functional in every way.

“Research suggests that perfectionism has been on the steady increase over the last 20 to 30 years,” says Martin, pointing to a recent study looking at changes in perfectionism in more than 40,000 students from 1989 to 2016.

This was found to be consistent across the three most common types of perfectionism: self-oriented perfectionism (holding unrealistic expectations of ourselves); the aforementioned socially-prescribed perfectionism (holding beliefs that we need to be perfect in order to be socially accepted), and other-oriented perfectionism (holding unrealistic expectations of others).


Gallery: Why do people want to be famous? (StarsInsider)

Dr Bruce Campbell, a clinical psychologist from the Centre for Clinical Interventions, says that the increase in perfectionism in the “last two to three decades is also likely to reflect changing social environments where competitiveness is valued, high achievers are increasingly recognised and rewarded, and parenting styles driven by anxiety have tended to become more controlling”.

“In addition, comparisons between people’s endeavours and achievements are easily accessible through the multitude of always available social media platforms,” he adds.

It’s easy to see how platforms like Instagram can pull anyone into a vortex of self-loathing and anxiety on a good day. Add a pandemic and multiple lockdowns, and the barrage of posts highlighting someone’s great parenting skills, someone else’s book launch and podcast appearances or weight loss results amid stay-home orders can significantly add to feelings of failure, especially in those already prone to them.

As author Rainsesford Stauffer writes in An Ordinary Age, “if you’re a young adult today … it’s a challenge not to feel as though finding yourself has been turned into a competitive sport. Now, it seems, striving to be extraordinary, being exceptional and being special are the same as being capable, fulfilled and happy”.

And it doesn’t help that perfectionism is often confused with high standards, and tends to be painted as a positive trait paired with our greatest accomplishments; “It drives me”, “it helps me to maintain a high standard”, “I wouldn’t be here without it” are all thoughts that routinely go through my head, even as I struggle with their negative impacts.

While it may be on the rise, perfectionism is manageable and can be put into perspective, provided we are ready to retrain our minds and, if necessary, get some help.

Campbell says that generally, it’s a good idea to have high standards; having goals helps you achieve things in life.

“It’s when these goals are either unachievable or only achievable at great cost that it makes it very difficult to feel good about yourself – this is when perfectionism can be problematic,” he says.

“If we have been rewarded for achieving very high standards, and particularly if this has happened on many occasions, then the ideas that we form about the need for unrelenting high standards become strongly reinforced. Eventually, these unrelenting high standards become our rules for living.”

He says to overcome perfectionism, we have to be prepared to adjust this rule and become more flexible with it: “If I expect less of myself, I may achieve a little less, but that’s OK.”

Martin suggests trying to diversify your activities and priorities, and incorporating some fun into your life.

“Where else can you get that sense of achievement, what other baskets can you put your eggs into? If they’re all in one, you’re very vulnerable,” he says. “No one part of our life should contribute more than a third to our self-esteem.”

A word of caution: pick your other baskets with care (I’d know: picking hobbies is risky: how do you turn on the brakes before thoughts start to intrude that maybe this could become your side hustle?)

“Some people who get to the top of their field may now pick something else to excel at [but] try not to set more traps for yourself,” he says. “When I talk to students I ask them, what sort of brother or friend are you? How much time do you spend outside?

Focusing on other activities such as spending more time with friends and family, and striving less for outcomes is much less likely to result in perfectionism, he says.

Make the most of your health, relationships, fitness and nutrition with our Live Well newsletter. Get it in your inbox every Monday.

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

At 85, Gospel star Bill Gaither and his vocal band coming to Michigan City

MICHIGAN CITY — The Road To Life Church, at 7056 W. County Road 450 North, will host popular gospel music singer and songwriter Bill Gaither and his Gaither Vocal Band in concert at 7 p.m. Central time Nov. ... Read more »

Nintendo delays its Advance Wars remaster to spring 2022

© Image: Nintendo A screenshot from Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp. Nintendo has delayed its upcoming remaster of the first two Advance Wars games. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp had ... Read more »

System of a Down Postpone L.A. Stadium Dates After Singer Serj Tankian Tests Positive For COVID-19

Serj Tankian of System of a Down System of a Down were forced to postpone their two planned hometown shows this weekend at Banc of California Stadium after singer Serj ... Read more »

Publishing Briefs: WCM Signs Jhené Aiko & Elvie Shane; Emeli Sandé Finds Reservoir

Jhené Aiko Warner Chappell Music has signed a co-publishing deal with Grammy-nominated artist Jhené Aiko. The deal includes all songs created by Aiko from January 2021 until the deal’s end, ... Read more »

How U.K. Touring Is Struggling to Keep On Truckin'

LONDON — In April 2022, when Ed Sheeran begins his + – = ÷ x shows — which he’s calling the Mathematics Tour — dozens of trucks from the U.K. ... Read more »

Will Iran's Censorship, Looming Internet Shutdown Dash Mehdi Rajabian's Grammy Chances?

Mehdi Rajabian Iranian composer and musician Mehdi Rajabian would like nothing more than to be nominated for a Grammy. But the Iranian government’s plans to shut down communications to the outside ... Read more »

First look at Brian Epstein and Cilla Black in new biopic shot in Liverpool

The first images have been revealed from the new Brian Epstein film, Midas Man. Jacob Fortune-Lloyd has been cast as the ” fifth Beatle ” in the biopic of the ... Read more »

Selma Blair Reflects on Having Her Son Arthur Shave Her Head Ahead of Stem Cell Transplant (Exclusive)

© ET Selma Blair is sharing her journey with multiple sclerosis (MS) in her new documentary, Introducing, Selma Blair. The neurological disease is something the 49-year-old actress has been battling ... Read more »

Dove Cameron on Keeping Her Love Life Private and What She's Learned On Tour (Exclusive)

© etonline Dove Cameron has had a change of heart about openly discussing her love life. ET spoke to the 25-year-old “LazyBaby” singer, and she revealed why she’s decided to ... Read more »

Historic home that's been in same family for 110 years on the market

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo A historic but rundown home which has undergone minimal changes in more than 100 years may vanish forever when it’s sold on Saturday.  ... Read more »

Queen Elizabeth Is in "Good Spirits" Amid Brief Hospitalization

Queen Elizabeth II spent a night in hospital this week, but is now back at home in Windsor Castle. Buckingham Palace confirmed to the BBC and other outlets that the ... Read more »

Amma Ariyathe, 22 October 2021, Written Update: Pangunni gets beaten up again

© Provided by Pinkvilla As the episode starts, Jithendran sneaks into Vineeth’s house and Aparna is locked up in her room all alone. Aparna is petrified as she sees some ... Read more »

Photo shows a distraught Alec Baldwin outside the sheriff's office after the prop-firearm shooting that left 'Rust' cinematographer dead

© Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for National Geographic The actor Alec Baldwin. Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for National Geographic Baldwin fired a prop firearm on the set of “Rust” on Thursday, Santa ... Read more »

UPDATE 2-K-pop megaband BTS leaves Sony for Universal

(Changes sourcing, adds background) Oct 22 (Reuters) – South Korea’s BTS has signed a new distribution and marketing deal with Universal Music Group , the world’s biggest music label, dropping ... Read more »

Hollywood ‘in shock' after Alec Baldwin fatally shoots director of photography with prop firearm

Hollywood is “in shock” after Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun on the set of a movie Thursday, accidentally killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Baldwin, 63, was on set for the ... Read more »

‘Rust' Shooting: Brandon Lee's Sister Reacts to On-Set Death Similar to Her Brother's on 'The Crow' Set

© Barry King/WireImage and Mat Hayward/Getty Images for AMC Networks On Thursday, 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed on the set of Rust after actor Alec Baldwin discharged a prop ... Read more »

The prop gun fired by Alec Baldwin contained a live round, prop masters union says

© Jim Spellman/Getty Images Alec Baldwin. Jim Spellman/Getty Images The prop gun actor Alec Baldwin discharged on set of the film “Rust” on Thursday, killing director of photography Halyna Hutchins ... Read more »

Ananya Panday questioned about supplying drugs to Aryan Khan based on an old WhatsApp chat; Actress denies allegations

© Provided by Desimartini  Ananya Panday for a second time appeared at the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) for further questioning in the Aryan Khan related drug case. He was accompanied ... Read more »

Ram Setu: Akshay Kumar shares stunning photo with Jacqueline Fernandez, wraps up Ooty schedule

© Provided by Zee News New Delhi: Actor Akshay Kumar on Friday announced the wrap-up of Ooty schedule for his upcoming film ‘Ram Setu’. Taking to his Instagram handle, Akshay ... Read more »

James Gunn leads tributes to Halyna Hutchins after on-set tragedy

© Bang Showbiz James Gunn James Gunn says his “heart goes out” to everyone affected after the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins. The ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ filmmaker has led ... Read more »

The Navy released a scathing report about the fire on the USS Bonhomme Richard

This story originally published on Task & Purpose.​ © Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christina Ross/U.S. Navy The Navy sailor who set the 2020 fire on the USS Bonhomme Richard ... Read more »

Sunshine Cruz, ibinahagi ang sikreto sa kaniyang ageless beauty at 40

© IG Sunshine Cruz Sa edad na 44, looking young at glowing skin pa rin ang aktres na si Sunshine Cruz. Ano nga ba ang sikreto sa kaniyang ageless beauty? ... Read more »

PICS: Shahid Kapoor & Mira Rajput with kids Misha, Zain look one stylish fam as they return from Maldives

Shahid Kapoor, wifey Mira Rajput, and kids Misha and Zain are finally back from their family vacation in the Maldives. The sweet family of four had jetted off for a ... Read more »

K-pop megaband BTS leaves Sony for Universal

© Reuters/HEO RAN FILE PHOTO: Members of K-pop boy band BTS pose for photographs during a news conference promoting their new album “BE(Deluxe Edition)” in Seoul (Reuters) -South Korea’s BTS ... Read more »

The Maserati MC20's Sound System Is as Impressive as the Supercar Itself

On the off chance you ever get sick of hearing the MC20’s V-6 race to its lofty 8,000-rpm redline right behind your head, Maserati has perfected an equally immersive soundtrack ... Read more »

Vaccine clinic to open near upcoming Rolling Stones concert

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) – Audience members heading to the upcoming Rolling Stones concert at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday may be able to receive their COVID-19 vaccine or booster. ... Read more »

Blind date: ‘I thought he was a driven, kind-hearted person'

CHIARA: 29 / pediatric nurse practitioner © Handouts This week’s Cupid match: Chiara and Magno. WHEN SHE IS HAPPIEST: Dancing with friends HER IDEAL MATE: Has a career that contributes ... Read more »

Prince Kaybee Says He's Better Than Black Coffee

Ahead of his show next month in Nairobi, Black Coffee is ignoring claims from fellow South African DJ Prince Kaybee that he’s a has been. We know which one we’re ... Read more »

‘Dionne Warwick: Don't Make Me Over' review: Documentary sings when Dionne does the talking

Marlene Dietrich looked each dress up and down. This wouldn’t do. No, not at all. One by one, she plucked the frocks off the rack and summarily flung them into ... Read more »

PHOTOS: Kareena Kapoor Khan spotted with her boys Taimur, Jeh at sister Karisma Kapoor's house

© Provided by Pinkvilla Actress Kareena Kapoor Khan is being spotted nowadays regularly. She always steps out in style and shells out just the right kind of fashion inspiration with ... Read more »

Imlie, 22 October 2021, Written Update: Malini turns Rupali against Imlie

© Provided by Pinkvilla As the episode starts, Imlie is trying to explain to Rupali how Pranav has been lying to her. Malini interferes and accuses Imlie of unnecessarily doubting ... Read more »

Watch: The Irish version of Squid Game may just be better than the original

© Provided by Extra.ie Squid Game has now officially knocked period drama Bridgerton off its throne as the most popular Netflix series ever. Pic: Netflix An Irish comedy account has ... Read more »

BREAKING: Ananya Panday leaves NCB office with dad Chunky Panday after being grilled for 4 hours; Video

© Provided by Pinkvilla Ananya Panday has been in the limelight since yesterday ever since her name has emerged in the Aryan Khan drug case. The actress had been summoned ... Read more »

Deepika Padukone, Ayushmaan Khurrana, Disha Patani and other Bollywood stars who 'purple' BTS and are a part of the ARMY

© Provided by BollywoodLife.com Korean boy band BTS has captivated everyone attention with their music. They are loved across the globe and have fans in every part of the world. ... Read more »

‘I proposed to Nandita from a 150 feet high rappelling wall,` reveals Vidyut

© Provided by Mid-Day Vidyut Jammwal known for action films like Commando, Junglee and his latest Sanak, reveals to mid-day.com that he prefers watching romantic movies. Vidyut also speaks about ... Read more »

Salman Khan Introduces Aayush Sharma's Character 'Rahulia Bhai' in Antim: The Final Truth

© Provided by News18 Salman Khan and the makers of Antim: The Final Truth unveiled a motion poster of the film featuring Aayush Sharma and it is an absolute treat ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic