What is perfectionism?
If the first sentence in a project is not perfect then you don’t feel like continuing writing? Do you tend to postpone the solving of a project because you doubt that it is going to be good enough? Are you rereading posts for social media or emails repeatedly before sending, because you worry about spelling errors or about the content being, just right? Does it seem like others are way ahead of you and are doing much better? Don’t you trust that the compliments you get are genuine? Do you have a hard time judging, when you should perform and when you can allow for yourself to relax? Do you seldom reach out and ask others for help?
A tendency in time is the ‘urge for perfection’, which is the doctrine holding that perfection is within reach and can be attained. It is in many ways the refusal to accept any standard that isn’t close to perfection.
It is the urge to appear like a success. An urge to be perfect. I wonder if we don’t all experience that urge now and again, to a lesser or greater extent?
To a lesser extent, perfectionism can be a motivating factor, passion and driving force that provides the energy to achieve something that we really want and wish for.
Perfectionism can lead us to great achievements and is an expression for striving to do ones best, to be goal oriented and dedicated.
This more healthy form of perfectionism is often referred to as adaptive perfectionism and is an expression of having high demands and expectations for one self and being able to live up to them and achieve these without being stressed or leading to rumination, negative thoughts or psychopathology.
To a greater extent, perfectionism can lead to intolerable self-criticism, repetitive concerns about not being good enough, a strong focus on own mistakes and shortcomings and fear of making mistakes.
When the level of perfectionism becomes maladaptive it is typically because one has such high demands and expectations for one self in one or more areas of life which are hard to live up to. These high and demanding standards are pursued even though they are creating problems both mentally and physically.
Maladaptive perfectionism entails that one’s self-esteem and self-worth is linked to how well one lives up to the high demands and expectations.
Consequences of Maladaptive Perfectionism
Maladaptive perfectionism is also associated with various forms of mental health problems such as headache and sleep discomfort at the mild end.
At the serious end, excessive and maladaptive perfectionism can lead to OCD, Eating disorder, anxiety (especially social phobia), self-harm and depression.
If symptoms of maladaptive perfectionism are not prevented or treated in time it can lead to the disorders to a greater or lesser degree.
Perfectionism is Not a Diagnosis
Perfectionism is not a diagnosis. It is a coping strategy or character trait that has developed to resist the demands that you feel imposed or impose upon yourself.
One can work on preventing maladaptive perfectionism by looking at the thought and behavioral patterns as well the demands that you have for yourself or the expectations you think others have for you.
Who is Sanne?
My name is Sanne Østergaard Nissen. I am a well-being and behavioural researcher – and expert in the field of perfectionism, senior lecturer, coach, head of Study programme at University College South Denmark and public speaker.
My heart lies in creating well-being and I have an ability to ask questions that create new thinking patterns, reflection and subsequent positive change.
How to maintain a high ambition level that is also lasting years to come?
Being ambitious, wanting to perform your best, doing well and striving to achieve much in life is a really good quality. In many ways one can benefit from some degree of perfectionism. However, if perfectionism becomes a struggle with one self, where one becomes over critical, does not enjoy work processes and learning processes, cannot tolerate mistakes and criticisms and constantly assesses ones own performance negatively and condemningly pushes oneself to the outermost limits, then it is worth stopping and looking at your thoughts and behaviors.
- Would you like to work with your thoughts and patterns of action to maintain well-being?
- Do you want to maintain a high level of ambition, drive and targetability without the risk of burn out?
- Would you like to let go of control now and then and let others get close and see your vulnerability?
- Would you like to let go of fear of making mistakes and let your creativity run freely?
- Do you want to let go of shame and be able to accept and enjoy the moment – without judging yourself and others?
- Would you like to enjoy learning processes rather than just thinking about the outcome and focusing on ‘being done’?
- Would you like to find joy and satisfaction, peace and balance?
Professionally and in terms of research I have been working for many years with perfectionism. Personally, I have dealt with perfectionism all my life – both the adaptive and the maladaptive form.
I would like to share my experiences.
Read more in the blog.
Write questions anonymously, which will be taken up in a post or video on this page.
Contact Sanne for personal coaching to achieve greater well-being, satisfaction and happiness in everyday life.
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