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Anxiety and Perfectionism: It's Okay to be Imperfect

March 10, 2020 Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

How is perfectionism related to anxiety? If you cope with chronic anxiety, do you find that you often have fears of failure and inadequacy? Do you find that you often feel as though what you do is not good enough and that you are constantly trying to live up to certain standards?

Throughout my life, I have always held myself to certain standards. Sometimes, those standards have been unrealistic or perhaps higher than necessary. When I have not met those standards, these times have been accompanied by intense feelings of unrest, discomfort, and uneasiness, resulting in sleepless nights, tension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and other symptoms related to anxiety. I have come to recognize this struggle, and I know this is a challenge I have faced in my life.

The Connection Between Anxiety and Perfectionism

Although anxiety and perfectionism can go hand-in-hand, setting high expectations for yourself is not necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact, this can be helpful and beneficial for personal growth. However, when these expectations become unrealistic and/or cause anxiety, it may be important to evaluate them and your perspective.

The fears associated with perfectionist standards can be debilitating. They may result in feelings of inadequacy, guilt, or depression. They may result in constant stress and worry. Additionally, these fears could possibly lead to avoidance of tasks that one feels they cannot accomplish to "perfect" standards.

Ways to Deal with Perfectionism and Anxiety

  1. Identify your fears. What are you worried about? What is it that makes you uncomfortable, and why? What is the worst-case scenario? Is that worst-case scenario something you can handle? Talking yourself through your fears is often empowering and can give you the strength to cope. Asking myself these questions helps me to put things into perspective. Sometimes, when I look at that worst-case scenario and I realize it is something I can deal with, it helps to ease some of my fears.
  2. Be realistic. Sometimes it is those fears of the unknown that end up causing anxiety, and the resulting fear that you are not "good enough." For example, I know this is something that I have experienced before when public speaking. I remember one specific event in which I spoke when I was in graduate school that I was extremely nervous about for fear of not appearing knowledgeable on the topic. Before the event, I read and re-read my notes over and over, and conducted more research on the topic than I needed to. Realistically, however, I knew that, truly, all I could do was do my best with my knowledge. Being realistic, and not giving in to the panic that my brain wanted to do, helped keep me calm.
  3. Accept yourself for who you are. Yes, this includes all of your imperfections, your ups, your downs, your flaws, and your struggles. They are all a part of being human. They make us who we are as individuals. This is something that I continue to work on and struggle with as well.

As human beings, we all have struggles, insecurities, flaws, and fears. This is a part of being human. But it is important to recognize when these fears become paralyzing and prevent us from moving forward.

What are some strategies you use to overcome the anxiety that results from the need for perfection? Share them in the comments below.

APA Reference
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2020, March 10). Anxiety and Perfectionism: It's Okay to be Imperfect, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2020/3/anxiety-and-perfectionism-its-okay-to-be-imperfect



Author: Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

Lizanne Corbit
March, 10 2020 at 3:36 pm

This is one that so many people, on a small or big scale, can relate to. I love that you make a point to identify that it can be done in a positive light, it's when it becomes debilitating that we need to press pause and take a look at how things are being impacted. I think your suggestions are all so useful and applicable. It's amazing what simply identifying our fears can do for the anxiety/perfection cycle. Great read.

March, 11 2020 at 10:55 am

Hi Lizanne,
Thank you so much for your comments. I really think your suggestion about "pressing pause" can be so effective. When we experience anxiety, sometimes doing just that can help us to put things into perspective and settle some of those anxious feelings.
Thank you for sharing!
Best,
Rizza

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