I'm a perfectionist to a fault. This means I hold myself to extremely high standards, and when I don't meet them, I get really hard on myself.
Most people think being a perfectionist is a good thing. After all, isn't that what you say to people at job interviews, when they ask you what your biggest flaw is?
"I'm a perfectionist," you laugh, thinking the interviewer will be impressed by your drive.
But it turns out perfectionists actually suffer the most. According to a recent study in Review of General Psychology, those who are perfectionists tend to be at a higher risk for suicide.
The researchers found a direct link between suicide and those who fall prey to society's insistence on upholding people to "perfect" standards. Those who fail to stick to these (basically impossible) standards are often the ones who worry the most, and feel like they aren't good enough.
Obviously, this isn't to say you SHOULDN'T expect a lot from yourself: In fact, it's probably great to push yourself further.
But be careful of going too far. Here's why perfectionists truly are the silent sufferers of anxiety:
1. They run the risk of exhaustion.
The perfectionist burnout is REAL.
Because perfectionists like to ruminate over certain things for a long time in order to get it exactly right, they often spend way more time than is needed on everything.
Because of this, they always find they have less time to complete their tasks. They're ALWAYS working, and they often sacrifice other important things – like time with friends or sleep – in order to fuel their perfectionism.
Obviously, this means they risk getting exhausted (and sick) on a daily basis.
2. The pressure gets too much.
Most of the time, this pressure comes from within.
Perfectionists usually put self-imposed timelines on their goals – "I HAVE to lose 10 pounds by my birthday" or "I MUST get that promotion within the next six months," for example – and then stress out when that time looms near.
As perfectionists are anything but flexible, they fail to acknowledge goals and timelines can change. This added pressure causes them to feel anxious when there truly is no need to be.
3. They're unnecessarily hard on themselves.
Because they often hold themselves to standards that are impossible to achieve, perfectionists are very hard on themselves.
They look at other people achieving great things and often think to themselves, "Why can't I have that?" They fail to realize what they've already accomplished because they're always looking for the next thing they want for themselves.
They never slow down to appreciate what they have.
4. They often have low self-esteem.
They are always comparing themselves to others because of their strong desire to be the "best." This is obviously ridiculous, because there will always be somebody who you think is achieving more than you are.
Sadly, perfectionists ignore this fact, and instead always think they're not good enough. They are always focusing on faults they feel are preventing them from having what others do... when in fact, there's nothing wrong with them at all.
5. They shy away from opening up to others.
Perfectionists don't like to feel vulnerable because they view it as weakness. They want to portray to others that they're always on track, and that nothing can faze them.
This is what makes opening up so hard. They take criticism very personally, and believe that if they give in to people too much, those criticisms will be even harder to hear.
Without a solid support system, it's even easier to fall prey to anxiety: I mean, you don't have any HELP.
Perfectionists therefore are stuck in their own thoughts, and downward spiral very fast. The only way to beat this anxiety is to open up a little more and realize perfectionism can't be achieved ALL the time.
But trust me: I know how hard that can be.