Embracing imperfection for success

Ever felt like you need everything to be perfect? What if chasing perfection is causing more harm than good? Studies suggest that perfectionism is on the rise, particularly among teenagers and could have negative implications regarding its link to mental health issues (Nazari, 2022). 

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Perfectionism, often misunderstood as the pursuit of flawlessness, is, in reality, a relentless push towards unattainable standards. It’s not about achieving perfection, it’s about pushing oneself excessively, leading to adverse effects on overall well-being. At the core of perfectionism lies the belief that self-worth is intricately tied to achievements. This article delves into the multifaceted nature of perfectionism, its development, errors in thinking, and effective therapeutic strategies including cognitive-behavioural therapy and hypnotherapy. 


The multi-faceted nature of perfectionism

Perfectionism is not a one-size-fits-all all concept. It can manifest in various areas of life, from academics to health, fitness, relationships, and personal grooming. One can be a perfectionist in one domain while not exhibiting these tendencies in others, illustrating the diverse impact of this mindset on different aspects of life. 

The development of perfectionism

Positive reinforcement can play a significant role in the development of perfectionism, being rewarded for successes by others can create an association between achievements and self-worth. Consequently, attaining success may be associated with qualities such as diligence, conscientiousness, and intelligence, implying a sense of personal value. One may develop the belief that their worth is contingent upon continuously striving for and reaching the high standards one sets for themselves. On the other hand, perfectionistic tendencies may be influenced by punishment, the absence of positive reinforcement, as well as strict parental expectations, criticism, excessive praise, low self-esteem, and cultural norms. The relentless pursuit of high standards then becomes a gauge of one’s self-worth. 

Perfectionism originates from biased beliefs, assumptions and predictions such as, “If I don't secure an A in this course, I don't deserve a place in this programme” or “I must always present myself flawlessly in the presence of others”. These tendencies can manifest as biased attributions, biased memory, and biased attention (Antony and Swinson, 2009).


Treating perfectionism

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioural therapy provides evidence-based strategies for tackling perfectionism. Recalibrating cognitive biases, encouraging flexible thinking, and correcting unrealistic beliefs are key cognitive strategies. Behavioural strategies include exposure to feared situations and prevention of safety behaviours. While these strategies have proven efficacy, other approaches like mindfulness, compassion, and acceptance-based techniques show promise in addressing perfectionism. 

Imagery work and hypnosis

To break free from the chains of perfectionism, imagery work and hypnosis also offer powerful therapeutic tools. These approaches help individuals understand, challenge, and change perfectionistic tendencies. Through imagery work and hypnosis, one can practice new ways of recalibrating thinking, feeling and behaving, and adjust unhelpful rules and assumptions related to achievement. It involves re-evaluating the importance placed on reaching unattainable standards. 

Perfectionism is a nuanced challenge, deeply rooted in beliefs about self-worth and achievements. However, the multifaceted nature of this issue allows for a comprehensive therapeutic approach. Imagery work, hypnosis, and evidence-based strategies from cognitive-behavioural therapy provide individuals with effective tools to challenge and overcome perfectionism. 


References

  • Anthony, M.M. and Swinson, R.P. (2009). When perfect isn’t good enough: Strategies for coping with perfectionism. Book available on Amazon.
  • Nazari, N. (2022). Perfectionism and mental health problems: Limitations and directions for future research. World Journal of Clinical Cases. Available here: https://doi.org/10.12998%2Fwjcc.v10.i14.4709

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, Greater London, SE3
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Written by Josephine Tripier Lorio, Dip Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy(CBH), MSc Psy, BSc OT
London, Greater London, SE3

Jo is a qualified Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist with a Master's degree in psychology and extensive experience working as an Occupational Therapist in NHS mental health services. As a Hypnotherapist she specialises in anxiety-related issues such as social anxiety, confidence, public speaking, imposter syndrome, and perfectionism.

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