Perfectionism is probably killing you and you don’t even know it
By MINDA ZETLIN
Are you a perfectionist? If the answer is yes, are you secretly proud of it?
You may think the fact that you never accept second best from others or yourself is behind all your career and personal accomplishments.
Most people who say, “I’m a perfectionist” are really just engaging in a humblebrag.
It turns out, though, that perfectionism is nothing to brag about, not even humbly, because there’s nothing good about it.
Perfectionism doesn’t make you better at anything, according to a fascinating research done by Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill, of the University of Bath and York St. John University, respectively.
Curran and Hill have done a massive review of studies from 1989–2017, measuring rates of perfectionism over the years, and their effects on people.
Perfectionism is bad for your health
The results are disturbing.
They found that perfectionism is associated with a wide range of mental illnesses, including depression, social anxiety, agoraphobia, anorexia, insomnia, self-harm and suicidal ideation.
They also found that the rates of perfectionism are increasing, especially among young people and even children.
One psychologist who specialises in eating disorders has been surprised and dismayed to find younger children among her patients, even as young as seven years old. She thinks perfectionism may be to blame.
Perfectionism may actually shorten your life.
A 2009 study found that people who tested high for perfectionism had a greater chance of dying in the following few years than those who did not.
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It doesn’t make you work harder
Unfortunately, most perfectionists are reluctant to give up their perfectionism.
This is often because they believe that being a perfectionist makes them better at their jobs, better at keeping a spotless home, or a perfect weight, or better at parenting − which is not true.
In fact, in one experiment, Hill gave some perfectionists and non-perfectionists a task to complete but did not tell them that it was in fact impossible to complete.
They all worked hard at it for a while, but the perfectionists got more upset and gave up sooner.
In any endeavour – from winning an Olympic medal to running a successful company – the ability to persevere even when things are going badly is a key element of success, and it’s an element that perfectionists tend to lack.
Far from making you better at your job, perfectionism is actually harming your performance.
Given all these findings, it’s high time we stopped idolising perfectionism.
The next time someone “admits” that they’re a perfectionist, try saying this: “Oh, that’s awful, I’m so sorry to hear that. Have you tried counselling?”
Detox for perfectionists
If you yourself are a perfectionist, it’s time for a change.
Begin with an experiment: Try letting go of some of the things you “have” to do in order to meet your own standards.
For instance, if you think you “need to” work late every evening, try not doing it for a week and see what happens.
You may indeed fall behind, in which case perhaps your job needs some adjustment or you may need to delegate better.
But you may also be surprised to find you’re doing your job better because a well-rested brain works better than an exhausted one.
You may also find, as British Broadcasting Corporation journalist Amanda Ruggeri did, that letting go of some of those expectations of yourself makes you feel strangely free.
Most importantly, work on silencing that internal voice that scolds and criticises every time you fail to live up to its exacting standards.
It’s making you unhappy and it’s detrimental to your job performance. Worse, it’s slowly killing you.
Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. To get in touch with Minda, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reposted with permission. This article first appeared on Inc.com.
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