March 7, 2023

The Connection Between Perfectionism & Mental Health

Perfectionists derive their value from positive recognition from others. It is no wonder that we exclaim, “perfect!”, for the things we see as positive. When we hear that something is perfect, we often feel relieved and accept it as a well-intentioned compliment. However, perfectionism has another side to it that can serve as an indicator of mental health needs. Behind perfectionist behaviors, feelings such as insecurity, inadequacy, low self-esteem, anger, dissatisfaction with reality, self-contempt, and anxiety can be found. Perfectionism can create a false sense of wellness and short-term soothing for perfectionists.

An example of a perfectionist is someone who feels they are inadequate because they make less money than their partner. They might hyperfocus on organization of the household because of this. Though the person may gain a temporary sense of ease from the sights of their perfect-looking home and may be distracted from the original issue, the emotional need continues to remain unmet.

Perfectionism is a coping skill that rarely meets its intended goal of feeling adequate with a healthy sense of self. Instead, it can perpetuate an unstable self-perception that is based on the recognition of others. Your relationships and your experiences suffer because you struggle to develop an acceptance of who you are, just as you are. Perfectionism doesn’t push you to be better, it ignores your unique power and potential for growth.

You may have recognized how exhausting perfectionism can be as a lifestyle and you may want to be fulfilled in different ways. Psychotherapy is a tool to help you discover information hidden in your emotions that can lead to greater meaning in your life, enhanced confidence, and self-acceptance. It may be hard for you to access your emotions, let alone name what they are. After all, you may have been taught that emotions are irrelevant or even been put down for expressing them. But wasn’t it your painful feelings that perfectionism tried to cover up? 

At Refresh, our therapists can help you understand yourself on a deeper level and reach a healthier sense of self; a person who is more accepting of their imperfections. Just remember, a healthier, more balanced emotional life is at the root of much of what we do. Let’s build a firm foundation.

By Jacqueline McIntosh, LCSW CASAC



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