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How does perfectionism become a curse

Did you know that there was a time when perfectionism was considered a nervous disorder? It was seen exclusively as a negative phenomenon that was detrimental to health.

Nowadays, of course, attitudes have changed. There are aspects in which perfectionism has been found useful. For example, it encourages people to set a high "personal bar" and to work hard to achieve it. However, the negative aspects of perfectionism are prevalent and are still relevant today. Let's examine when perfectionism begins to harm and becomes a curse.

At its worst, perfectionism is an “armor against real life”. Why? Because for the perfectionist there is no such thing as failure, no such thing as negative emotions, and no such thing as success. He denies them, does not recognize them, and avoids them.

Why is there no success, you ask? He does not appreciate it. Success is only a temporary point on the way to another goal he has set.

The perfectionist has an unrealistically perfect picture painted in his head that cannot be achieved. With his thoughts of perfectionism he is creating a prison in which he himself falls. He is tormented by a sense of his own imperfection and inferiority. Do you understand the absurdity of the situation?

To paint a perfect and unattainable world and suffer from the realization that you are not worthy to go there. After all, every mistake and failure for the perfectionist is a disaster and a failure. All his life he chases "his own shadow," tormented by his own imperfection.

He is not ready for failures, he runs away from them. Failure only exacerbates his sense of worthlessness. Each time he loses more and more of his value and becomes disappointed in himself. Inside the perfectionist lives a monster who is always hungry. He is always dissatisfied. No amount of achievement can satiate him. He is invariably short.

High expectations, non-acceptance of reality lead to failures in various spheres: work, relationships, food, sex, health.

The perfectionist at his worst is a rigid construct that is incapable of change. Under the influence of external circumstances, he breaks down, finding himself psychologically unprepared for them.

The perfectionist, if you want quite simply and harshly, does not allow himself to be human. He forbids himself to live through negative emotions - because it is a sign of weakness. He does not accept mistakes, either his own or those of others. For him, everything he has done is always small and not good enough. Can you imagine a picture, or maybe recognize in the description any of your relatives, acquaintances and loved ones?

Is there a reasonable perfectionism, one that is useful? Is it possible to set goals, achieve them and remain "human" at the same time?

Yes. This is the one when a person who sets goals, striving to achieve them in the best possible way, accepts reality. He sees difficulties and difficulties on the way to the goal as an integral part of the journey.

He understands that we become stronger by overcoming adversity. Failures are what make us what we eventually become. They are the points of growth, not the goal achieved. We grow in the PROCESS of getting results.

"The intelligent perfectionist is not afraid to show his weakness. He has no need to be chivalrously armored against the world and people. He is confident in himself and his worth. He is so strong that he is willing to be weak. Of course he is uncomfortable if he fails at something, but it is not a disaster for him.

In other words, "reasonable perfectionists" also set high goals and challenges for themselves, but they don't get bogged down, allow themselves to make mistakes and recognize the benefits of obstacles and difficulties. For them, they are points of growth.

Another distinguishing characteristic of them is flexibility. For them, changing the route to the goal is just another possibility, and "the horror of the universe.

So how do you allow yourself to be wrong?

If you realize that perfectionism is inherent in you too, try the exercises below. They will help you understand how far things have come. Are you able to cope with the perfectionist curse on your own, or do you need help?

Exercise 1

Have you ever wondered what happens when you fear failure? Most of the time you make a big deal out of it.

You're afraid of consequences that don't yet exist and may never happen. If they do, you are probably perfectly capable of dealing with them.

What to do? Imagine that the worst has already happened to you. Write down all the worst things that you think might happen to you as if they have already happened.

Why? To see that there is "no death" there. That it's just another step in life. That everything is possible to change. To realize for yourself that you can handle it.

Exercise 2

Take a sheet of paper and divide it into two columns. In one, write down the good events and what they taught you.

In the other, write the difficulties and setbacks you encountered. Describe what they, in turn, have taught you. What qualities you showed to cope with the situation. What skills have you learned?

You may be surprised, but the points of growth will be the obstacles. The way you overcame them, the new facets they revealed in you. What they made you.

It's important to take yourself and your power out of these situations. Accept the fact that no matter how painful the situation was, if you made it through and did not break down, then you have become even stronger and more enduring.

Exercise 3

Make a list of things that you will allow yourself to do that are not perfect. For hardened perfectionists, every little step is important, for example, stop folding your jeans and just throw them on the chair.

Gradually expand the list. Include new things to do. Practice your imperfection. Give yourself the right to make three mistakes a day.

Exercise 4

Set a time limit for the things in which you "bury" yourself the most. Make a list and write down the time allowed.

Perpetual redoing of things, stretching them to the point of impossibility in time and space, is characteristic of perfectionists. This is the line that also needs to be controlled.

Unfortunately, there is a boundary beyond which it is almost impossible to cope. If you realize that perfectionism has become your curse, get help.


Anna Matyagina

psycotherapist, certified coach ICI, MRI, AC; specialize in Jungian sand therapy, metaphorical maps, PhD in Engineering

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