Is Perfectionism Beneficial?

“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection” – Kim Collins

Perfectionism can be good, but it can also be detrimental (maladaptive perfectionism), especially when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. That is what People think they have to follow a diet or lifestyle change, perfectly. They don’t because trying to follow a diet, or lifestyle change completely will cause more stress than needed. (2) It can counteract the benefits of the diet or change in lifestyle.

Perfectionism is: setting standards beyond reach and reason, never be satisfied by anything less than absolute, change of moods to a depressed state, being preoccupied with fears of failure and disapproval, not seeing mishaps as a way to learn and improve, and becoming overly defensive when criticized. (5)

One type of perfectionism is called socially prescribed perfectionism, “individuals let peer pressure or other peoples judgment towards them have an effect on them.” Anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts are only some of the mental health problems that specialists have repeatedly linked to this form of perfectionism. (1) One study of 41,641 American, Canadian, and British college students, socially prescribed perfectionism increased 2x the rate of self-oriented perfectionism, between 1989 and 2016. (6,7)

Self-oriented perfectionism is linked to eating disorders, clinical depression, and premature death. This form of perfectionism is when individuals attach irrational importance to being perfect and hold unrealistic expectations of themselves. (1)

Perfectionists will typically be battling harsh inner dialogue, in which their “inner critics” continually telling them that we’re not good enough. It can lead to a snowball effect. Having a constant inner voice is draining and exhausting. To add to that, perfectionists often criticize themselves for the fact they are being self-critical, or feel that their ongoing efforts are further proof of their imperfections.

One way to silence the inner voice is practice being self-compassionate. One study found that self-compassion can help protect against depression in people with perfectionistic tendencies. Self-compassion is the practice of self-kindness, which consistently reduces the strength of the relationship between the maladaptive perfectionism and depression. (3)

Other tips on quieting that inner critic: (4,5)
-Take some time and acknowledge the fact that whatever goals you set out to achieve, will be difficult
-View failure or mistakes as a learning experience
-Avoid procrastination, as procrastination may happen because of the thought of failure
-Let go, allow yourself to be less perfect in parts of your life that are lower stakes
-Enjoy the process as well as the end result
-Keeping fear and anxiety from failure within bounds
-Reacting positively to helpful criticism
-Celebrate the accomplishment of each step
-Setting standards that are high but within reach
-Write down a list of the pros and cons of being perfect
-Increase awareness of the nature of your all-or-nothing thoughts, and how they extend to
other people in your life
-Be realistic
-Set strict limits on each project. When the time is up, move on to another activity
-Know that perfectionism impossible
-Seek help from a therapist


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This blog post is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice.  The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition.

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