For someone like me, BOAF! LOL! I have been told by everyone in my family that when I was a baby, I was different. As a baby, I can just hear my mother talking about how needy I was. How my mother would park me outside of her shower so I didn’t go crazy! I know! I feel sorry for my women in my life too! Too much info about Dr. Zeke, but I tell you this because some of us are just born with these tendencies. Throughout our life, we find feedback channels that help solidify our perfectionist behaviors.
This feeling only blossomed when I found out I was good at something. Once I found something, I practiced it every day. I sacrificed time with friends and family when I was young. This type of behavior was okay when I was younger. I didn’t have kids, a full-time job, chores, friends, and a spouse to share my life with. I engrained these habits early on and because of this perfect storm, I had a more challenging life when I tried to break these perfectionist habits as an adult.
Why does Perfectionism develop?
Rewarding and Positive Reinforcement
Do you remember that “gold star” when you were in school? Or getting an “A+” on your report card? The look in your parents’ eyes said it all. They were so proud of you! The belief that “mom and dad like it when I do well at school” and then as an adult, this belief turned into “People are proud of me if I succeed!” Unfortunately, over time, this belief can turn into thinking that “People will ONLY be proud of me if I am successful.”
The ability to feel like there is something wrong when you are not successful is a huge problem. You can start to feel jealous of others like I’ve seen with many of my clients. Perfectionist can fuel the jealousy in you when you see someone’s picture perfect life on Instagram or Facebook. You may start to think, “my life is not like that, what am I doing wrong?” Guess what? Those profiles are not real! Our life is supposed to be filled with challenges and things that don’t go perfect. We need to start accepting and embracing those imperfections.
This feeling only blossomed when I found out I was good at something. Once I found something, I practiced it every day. I sacrificed time with friends and family when I was young. It was okay when I was younger. I didn’t have kids, a full-time job, chores, friends, and a spouse to report to. I engrained these habits early on and because of this perfect storm, I had a more challenging life when I tried to break these perfectionist habits as an adult.
Anyone a fan of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant? I am! I’m not even a huge basketball fan, but you have to admire the sacrifice those men gave to be great in their sport. Kids are learning from their books, documentaries, and their on-the-court commitment of excellence. You see Michael Jordan sacrificing rest time to work on free throws, jump shots, and layups. They sacrificed relationships, friends, and sometimes their bodies for the time they spent on the court. These guys were perfectionist in their sport, and with the talent they were born with. They were able to achieve what most of us can only dream of.
As someone watching these behaviors in your idols, you may start to think that “Succeeding to be the best is more important than anything else.” Watching this type of behavior may carry over to your work or how you parent your children. This type of behavior is called modeling through indirect learning. Don’t feel bad, these behaviors are still great! We just need to be more realistic to our goals of what is achievable and healthy for you.
Temperament refers to the way you think, react, and behave. Science people like me call it “innate.” You are born with it and it is something that is engrained in your subconscious. Maybe as a child, when you competed and lost, you would flip your S#it! It would take you hours to settle or you may never want to play that game again. This could be related to your gene make-up, but it does not mean that your perfectionism cannot be changed or helped.
Studies have shown that people who avoid seeking out new things, who are highly dependent on rewards from others, and who persist towards goals despite frustration and fatigue, are more likely to develop perfectionism. Just remember, the first step that I went over in my first article about perfectionism is identifying where you experience your perfectionism and the type of perfectionist behavior you exhibit. Once you have identified this, it is simpler for you to work with a therapist.
How can being a Perfectionist holds you back?
How perfectionism can be a problem?
Most of us can all rally around the thought of doing something perfectly, and others noticing it and being amazed by it. Soon people start to associate you with being the ONLY person that can do that particular task or activity. You become proud of it, but what happens when you do it wrong? You start to break it down at every level, you may find yourself spending hours retraining yourself and trying to train yourself to avoid any mistake in the future. You spend hours a day training yourself and triple checking your work so you can always get it perfect.
You start to set unhelpful rules and assumptions that take a toll on the balance of your life. You are working longer and relaxing less for the sake of perfection. This is when you start to have a shift in your emotional stress leading to burn out and increased anxiety. To understand what happens when your body becomes stress and how it reacts to long-term stressors, check out this article.
Short story, you burn out. Your body is exhausted and you start to notice health issues that become very difficult to recover from. In addition, you may feel exhausted to where energy is hard to come by….
How Perfectionism affects relationships?
If you can imagine the time, the emotional toll and the mental training it takes to be perfect. The emotional stress when you fail or the self-critic when you achieve an amazing goal and you feel like it was not a high enough standard. Do you think your friends, spouse, or children want to be around someone that always finds flaws, expects high standards, or doesn’t spend enough quality time with them.
When your perfectionist behaviors consume you and leave very little time to the actual things that give you happiness and less stress. This is when you find fractured relationships and very little support from the friends you used to have.
Can you overcome perfectionism?
By reading this far, you have shown that you are interested in creating new behaviors to minimize these perfectionistic behaviors where they are affecting you in a negative way. You can use this link to find a therapist, and they do take insurance. In addition, if you want to do more reading on Perfection, look of the Centre for Clinical Intervention (CCI). CCI is an Australian based company that believes in educating people on common mental health issues. I love their resources on taking a deep dive on perfectionism and also give you a 9-step process of working through your perfectionist behaviors.
How does perfectionism affect sleep?
If you are constantly worrying about your high standards, there is a huge chance that you are sacrificing time like sleep. Reducing your sleep amount for things that you feel are more important will slowly takes its tow on your mental health and focus. Sleeping less than 7 hours will jump start your sympathetic nervous system. If you are not sure what the stress response is, then you may want to check out this article that I wrote about stress and how it affects your body.
The other issue that I have experienced with perfectionism is that we turn these behaviors toward our sleep. We force ourselves to adopt the perfect routine, daytime exercise, and then feel frustrated when we can not sleep. Sounds very counterintuitive, but is very common. We draw so much attention on ourselves with being perfect at work, great at the gym, and great with our family. When the issue arises and you can not get good sleep. You put your wrong foot forward, and allow your perfectionist attitude take over. The rest is history! When you cannot achieve your goals of sleeping 7-9 hours and have great quality sleep on your sleep tracker, things fall apart.
How to fix sleep?
Everyone is unique in the fact that they acquired different habits along the way that has stressed the body into sending alarms in the way of insomnia. That’s right! When your body is stressed (emotionally or physically), it will not sleep. When you work with a sleep consultant, or holistic sleep coach that training in identifying these physical and emotional stressors, it can make your healing journey simpler.
To Healthy Sleep,
Dr. Zeke Medina PharmD, RPh
Holistic Adult Sleep Coach and Pharmacist