GoodTherapy defines perfectionism as “the need to be or appear to be perfect, or even to believe that it’s possible to achieve perfection.” Medical News Today warns about socially prescribed perfectionism, which is when “individuals believe their social context is excessively demanding, that others judge them harshly, and that they must display perfection to secure approval.” Research links perfectionism to anxiety, depression, suicide (especially among college students), risk of bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and among other things, the death of marriages.
According to Dr. David Hawkins, Director of the Marriage Recover Center and author of over 30 books, “It is well understood that perfectionism is a primary killer of relationships. The perfectionist often expects more from others than they expect from themselves. At the very least perfectionists see faults in another, amplifies them, while minimizing their own weaknesses. This combination is lethal to a marriage.”
Another example of perfectionism’s deathly grip is an article entitled Perfection is destroying the mental health of my millennial generation, published two years ago this month, January 2018. The article hits the nail on the head on many different levels, and its author offers a vulnerable perspective of her generation, which is one that’s grown up with year-round sports, college credit as high schoolers, social media photos and posts of fake perfection, and countless other realities and pressures that no other generation was asked to survive before eighteen. The article makes several points, but my favorites are:
- “When Facebook launched, students were the perfect customers- because we were desperate for the validation it offered.”
- “If you’re a millennial (broadly defined as anyone aged between 18 and 35), there’s a good chance that perfectionism really is your biggest weakness.”
Not many traits have mental health issues, the unraveling of marriages, and an Achilles heel of an entire generation listed in their disclaimer. For those who are convinced perfectionism is a strength, not a weakness, I ask you to reconsider your stance. To the millennial generation that society has done a disservice to with unprecedented pressure to never fail or misstep, I offer you a new perspective.
Perfectionism implies a lack of scars and heartache. It suggests that every choice and every decision ever made has been made correctly. This leaves little to no room for human growth. Struggle. Pain. Missteps. Lessons learned. These are the times we find our true selves. These are the times we see who steps forward to support us, an action much easier when our lives are bright and beautiful. In other words, it’s the parts of life that aren’t easy where depth is found and character is defined.
Here’s the truth: No one is perfect and if you think you are then you’ve just exposed your flaw. Stop comparing yourselves to others, and start loving your journey through life- imperfect and all.
Author: Evelyn Lindell
Certified Health & Wellness Coach