Do you pride yourself on balancing your family, home, social commitments, work, sex life and gym membership, whilst appearing totally in control? Then you could be suffering from perfectionism. This modern day ill is an extremely common syndrome that affects many professional women, and can lead to depression, stress, exhaustion, and pent up feelings of anger and frustration. You want to appear as though you have all the balls in the air, and even though you feel overwhelmed inside because you’re struggling to meet your own high standards, you refuse to ask for help or support.
People often confuse perfectionists with high achievers as both tend to set high goals and work hard towards achieving them. But a high achiever can be satisfied with doing a great job, even if all of their goals aren’t completely met. Perfectionists won’t accept anything less than perfect and tend to be far more critical of themselves and others. They find it difficult looking at any accomplishments as a whole, instead honing in on any small mistakes or imperfections in their work and in themselves. Sound familiar?
Perfectionists have ridiculously high standards and commonly believe that they will be happier and more successful once they reach them, and will be rejected if they don’t. A root cause of this seems to be a lack of self-esteem, as they believe they’re not good enough as they are, and need to achieve greatness in order to prove their worthiness. Unfortunately, regardless of their accomplishments and achievements, they’ll never feel satisfied, as there’s always more to be done. They’ll never be thin enough, pretty enough, successful enough, rich enough.
“I’m careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
Michael J. Fox
These impossibly high standards could also be down to the unfair and unrealistic comparisons we make between ourselves and others. It could be someone at the office, or a celebrity that popped back into shape immediately after giving birth, or a relative that always seems more successful than you. Comparing yourself and judging yourself against others can be crippling, because in your eyes you’ll never measure up. We look at airbrushed images of celebrities and even though we know they’ve been airbrushed, we still feel bad because we can’t help but compare ourselves. If they can look like that then why can’t I? But it’s not just about looks, it’s the clothes they wear, the lifestyle they lead. And it’s not just celebrities we compare ourselves to. On Instagram, every jo-schmo is sharing gorgeous pictures of themselves laughing, looking fabulous and living an amazing life. It makes us feel like we don’t measure up. This makes us set our goals even higher and work even harder.
But perhaps more women are like this today because there are more expectations put upon us than ever before. There’s that pressure to be the great wife, mother, lover, friend, daughter, employee – to look great, have a beautiful home, have an amazing career and the body of swimwear model.
Gordon Flett, Professor of Health and Psychology at York University, who has studied the link between perfectionism and health for 20 years states “It’s natural to want to be a perfectionist in one area of your life such as your job, but when it becomes an obsessive need for the perfect job, child, relationship, bank balance and body, it causes extreme stress and can affect not only relationships but also your health. If the stress response is prolonged, the body is always in threat mode, which means the immune, digestive, cardio-vascular and other systems suffer.”
“Lower your standards and accept the occasional failure as an essential ingredient on the road to success” says Professor Flett. “Don’t define yourself by a list of achievements and see mistakes in context and as an opportunity to learn.”
Mistakes are a part of life. We say embrace them, after all, who cares if the dinner was burnt? Who cares if you’ve put on a few extra pounds? What’s the worst that could happen? Give yourself a break. It’s human to make mistakes in life and to fail. In fact, we would go as far as to say it’s good for you and we can prove it to.
When starting out in television aged 22, Oprah was told she wasn’t right for TV and was promptly fired; she went on to run her own successful show for 25 years before launching her own network.
Anna Wintour was sacked from Harpers Bazaar in 1975 and told she would never understand the American fashion market. She has been Editor-in-Chief of US Vogue since 1988.
JK Rowling was famously rejected by 12 publishers before Harry Potter was picked up, selling over 450 million copies worldwide.
Vera Wang failed to make the U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. Then she became an editor at Vogue and was passed over for the editor-in-chief position, before becoming a famous wedding dress designer at aged 40.
We like this quote from Michael J. Fox – “I’m careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” Here here Michael.