Problems with perfectionism

By Kayla Hunt,  Columnist

The phrase “perfectly imperfect” has circulated for a while in an effort to lift the pressure off of those who feel the need to live up to social standards that are in place. No one can be perfect and the pressure to achieve that can induce massive stress on others. However, are we emerging into an era where we are expected to be perfect? 

In psychology terms, perfectionism is defined as a personality trait where a person strives for flawlessness and sets high performance standards. 

According to Psychology Today, there are three different forms of perfectionism: self-oriented, socially prescribed, and other-oriented. Self-oriented perfectionism is when individuals hold high expectations and standards for themselves. Socially prescribed perfectionism is when individuals feel pressured by others to be perfect in everything they do. Other-oriented perfectionism is when people hold others to high standards

According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, researchers found that recent generations of college students had significantly higher scores for each form of perfectionism compared to earlier generations. Researchers contend that younger people have high expectations of themselves that have fostered a competitive nature between them to meet society’s pressure for them to succeed. 

Social media plays a large role in the ideation of perfectionism and fostered this competitive nature. Every social media platform has their own hierarchy and metrics to measure their status. In the article “How Social Media Amplifies Our Need to Live Up to Cultural Models of Perfection,” writer Srinivas Rao discusses how social media reinforces the importance of status through their own metric systems. For instance, he states that Instagram uses hearts as its main metric and one of the ways Facebook measures status is based on whether you are in a relationship. Rao states in his article, “The people who have high status have to keep feeding the beast to maintain their status. Those who don’t have status keep feeding the beast in hopes that they’ll eventually become someone who does have status.” People are competing for the most likes, the most shares, the most views and are constantly seeking validation for their status or image. People are becoming more absorbed with attaining the “perfect lifestyle” to keep up with or exceed their peers on social media.

Although there is nothing wrong with wanting to succeed, perfectionism leads people to feel pressured that they can’t fall below a certain standard. This can affect people’s mental health, including increased levels of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. 

There are tips to escape perfectionism before it becomes a self-destructing habit. In the article, “Perfectionist? 10 Ways to Stop Being Your Own Enemy”, provided by Inc., columnist Matthew Jones gives advice on how to end the cycle of perfectionism, including: 

  • Creating more realistic goals and expectations 
  • Prioritizing in self-care and investing in yourself more 
  • Saying no more often 
  • Scheduling breaks and taking time to recharge 
  • Practicing not holding others to your same standards

It is important to remind ourselves that it is okay to fail and that sometimes we will fall short of perfect. The pressure of living up to unrealistic standards can compromise the mental health of yourself and others. Instead of competing against each other to achieve and maintain a perfect lifestyle, we should support one another on the accomplishments and even failures that we do attain, no matter how big or small.

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