The Perfectionist’s Dilemma: Understanding the Struggle of People Hard on Themselves
Perfectionism is something that many people strive for, believing it to be the key to success and happiness. However, for some individuals, perfectionism takes on a life of its own, becoming an insidious force that consumes their thoughts and actions. People who are hard on themselves are often referred to as perfectionists, and their lives are characterized by a high degree of stress and anxiety. In this article, we will explore the struggles of perfectionists, and offer tips for overcoming the perfectionist mindset.
What It Means to Be Hard on Yourself
Being hard on oneself is a personality trait that is often developed early in life, and often has little to do with one’s upbringing or external circumstances. People who are hard on themselves tend to place unrealistic expectations on themselves, striving for a level of perfection that is unattainable. They are their own harshest critics, and are quick to berate themselves for even minor mistakes or missteps.
One of the defining characteristics of perfectionists is their tendency to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to perfect everything they do. Unlike most people, who are content to allocate a set amount of time to any given task, perfectionists will spend all of their free time trying to perfect their goals. This often comes at the expense of social and family commitments, as perfecting everything becomes a higher priority than spending time with loved ones.
The Struggles of People Who Are Hard on Themselves
Being hard on oneself is a difficult way to live, and there are several key struggles that are common among perfectionists.
Defensiveness in the Face of Criticism
First, perfectionists tend to be highly defensive when criticized, even if the criticism is delivered in a gentle way. They take criticism to heart, storing it away for future reference. This can lead to self-doubt and a perpetual sense of imperfection.
Perfectionists also tend to think in black-and-white terms, with a focus on all-or-nothing outcomes. If they think they can achieve a perfect outcome, they will go full-speed ahead, but if they feel they cannot attain perfection, they will not even attempt the task. This all-or-nothing thinking causes perfectionists to dislike not winning, creating a constant feeling of inadequacy.
Intolerance of Mistakes
Another hallmark of perfectionism is an intolerance for mistakes. Perfectionists are often hypercritical of themselves and others, believing that perfection is attainable and that anything less is unacceptable. This can make them difficult to work with on a team, as they are often not tolerant of others’ mistakes.
Strong Desire to Be the Best
Perfectionists often have a strong desire to be the best at everything they do, which can be a helpful trait in certain contexts. However, this desire can turn into an obsession, with perfectionists becoming anxious and competitive about their performance. They may panic during exams or games, feeling a sense of urgency to outperform their peers.
Nervousness and Anxiety
People who are hard on themselves often become nervous and anxious when they are asked to perform in public. They may put themselves under intense pressure to achieve the impossible, leading to a sense of impending failure. This can be draining over time if not addressed, and may lead to anxiety and depression.
Feeling Humiliated When Others Perform Better
One of the most difficult struggles of perfectionism is feeling humiliated when others perform better. Even though perfectionists often work harder than their peers, they are devastated when someone else excels. This creates a highly competitive environment, which can be toxic and counterproductive.
Obsessively Playing Things Over in Their Minds
Perfectionists may also play things over and over in their minds, obsessing about outcomes that did not meet their expectations. This leads to a vicious cycle of self-doubt and insecurity, as they struggle to let go of their perceived failures.
Focusing Exclusively on the Result
Perfectionists also tend to focus exclusively on the end result, ignoring the journey that led them there. They value being the best over the process of learning and growing, which can be detrimental to personal growth and happiness.
Obsessing Over What Others Think
Finally, perfectionists are often acutely aware of what others think of them. They want to be perceived as the best-looking, the smartest, the most successful, and so on. This creates a sense of constant pressure, as they worry about living up to others’ expectations.
Moving Beyond Perfectionism
It is possible to move beyond the perfectionist mindset and embrace a more relaxed and enjoyable way of living. Here are some tips for breaking free of perfectionism:
– Practice self-compassion. Instead of being hard on yourself, try to treat yourself with kindness and understanding.
– Focus on the journey. Instead of obsessing over the end result, try to enjoy the process of learning and growing.
– Embrace imperfection. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes and that imperfection is a natural part of life.
– Practice mindfulness. Learning to live in the present moment can help to reduce anxiety and stress.
– Get help from a mental health professional. If perfectionism is causing you significant distress, don’t hesitate to seek help from a qualified therapist or counselor.
People who are hard on themselves often struggle with anxiety, stress, and a constant sense of inadequacy. However, by practicing self-compassion, embracing imperfection, and focusing on the journey rather than the end result, it is possible to break free of the cycle of perfectionism. With time and patience, you can learn to appreciate life in a less stressful and more enjoyable way.