If you want to excel at a particular endeavor and so set high standards for yourself, good for you! You have a passion and enjoy spending time engaging in it. If you base your self-worth on whether you succeed or not, then a good thing has been turned into something that can make you unhappy and actually impair you performance. They you are engaging in perfectionism. You want to perform a task without making a mistake and probably spend time worrying about whether you will or not. This worrying will likely interfere with your task performance. If you’re thinking this way, you are probably making certain cognitive errors that sustain your perfectionism. Thoughts often lead to feelings, god or bad and in the case of perfectionism, generally feelings you would rather not be feeling. Often perfectionistic thinking is driven by more than one of the thoughts I will present. People who engage in perfectionistic thinking often thinking selectively; they focus on the negative about the situation and ignore or discount the positive aspects. When someone with perfectionistic demands on the performance succeeds, they often reset their standards higher than they were and devalue their accomplishment. People with perfectionism will often have one set of standards for performance for themselves and another lower set of standards they apply to others. They will overgeneralize from one mistake or flaw in their performance to thinking that they have failed completely or go so far as to think that they are themselves are a failure. If you finding yourself calling yourself names after a less than perfect performance, for example, calling yourself a loser or saying you hate yourself because of your failure, then you have a problem that you might want to reduce in your life. Perfectionists often say that they, or others, “must” or “should” do something in a particular manner. It would be better to say to oneself “I would prefer to … or I would like to…” thus indicating that you are making a choice about a situation rather than imposing some standard as if it were decreed from on high to us mere mortals.
Perfectionism can support other problems, like depression, OCD or an eating disorder. It can also be part of what causes one of those conditions. Perfectionism could be one aspect to address if one is working on one of those other problems. It could also be something to be addressed in it own right. Depending on the severity of your perfectionism, you might be able to minimize its influence in your life with a self-help book like Overcoming Perfectionism: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques by Roz Shafran and several other contributors that offers multiple methods to overcome your perfectionism. If after using this book or another like it you find that you are not making the progress you would like to be making, then you might consider seeking treatment here at Specialized Therapy Associates with one of the staff trained in implementing cognitive-behavioral techniques to help you change the unhelpful forms of your thinking. One of the most helpful will be to develop with your therapist behavioral experiments you can use to test out whether your thoughts accurately predict the negative outcome you expect or to be positively surprised to find out that things don’t turn out so bad even when you’re not perfect.
If you are battling perfectionism, or know someone who is- call us at 201-488-6678 to learn more.