Our perfectionism may be celebrated by some, but it’s actually an under the radar anxiety trait that might be detrimental to your mental health. Read on for Frame Therapist Chelses Vinas' answers to our community questions around perfectionism, and how to understand our triggers.
Q: What comes first, perfectionism or anxiety?
Perfectionism is an anxiety trait, and it gets reinforced over time. The more hours you stay in the office or the more you go above and beyond, the more you're seen as a great value, right?. The more that we are validated for being a perfectionist, the more that behavior stays and we actually take it as a part of our identity. For this reason perfectionism often flies under the radar as a mental health symptom.
We learn that when we perform very well, people need us, and come to us, and our mental health symptom of anxiety gets masked. Outwardly you're doing well for yourself, but internally that fear of failure can weigh on you so heavily, and be the driver of why you're performing so well.
Q: Are there different types of perfectionism?
Yes, I’ve identified two different kinds of perfectionists.
One - you're so stuck on the outcome and fear of failure that you don't even put yourself out there.
Two - you're so hyper focused on the little details of a project it's impossible to ever complete that project because of the standards you've given to yourself.
The thing about anxiety is that we have to put ourselves in the moment we fear in order to move through it. We've seen over time that people tend to feel better when they put themselves into those situations and actually learn to master it.
So step one if this resonates with you would be recognizing that you're stuck in this pattern. Step two would be to do something very small about it. Make a baby step instead of a grand gesture.
Q: Is perfectionism always a negative trait?
Maybe some people enjoy it, but it's undeniable that at some point we cannot sustain perfectionism. There is a situation that will come, person, place, or thing, and we will not be able to measure up because it will be this unattainable standard that we set for ourselves.
Now, I do think perfectionism can help you attain goals and push you forward. But remember if you're so stuck on the outcome, or you're so focused on the little details, you can stunt yourself. If it starts to impact your ability to put yourself out there because your fear or failure is so significant, it may be time to seek help. This could be from a professional or by reaching out to friends who maybe have been experiencing the same thing you are.
Q: What are some ways we can overcome perfectionism?
We have to recognize our triggers. When are we performing for others? When are we trying to be perfect?
Another very important step is to appreciate how far you've come. The fact that you have even started something should be recognized and celebrated.
Always reach out to your support system when you need it, they know you best and they can help to talk you down or talk you up if you need it.
Lastly, always recognize who you feel your best around and what situations those are.
About the Author: Chelsea Vinas is a California based Therapist whose specialities cover anxiety, stress, big life changes & transitions, women's issues and more. Click here to view Chelsea's profile and schedule a free introductory call.
You can follow her on instagram @get_therapized
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