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5 Effective Ways to Beat Perfectionism and Anxiety in 2023

Many people with perfectionism also struggle with anxiety. Luckily, you don’t need to be a psychologist or therapist to make some progress on your perfectionism and anxiety. In this blog, we’ll learn about perfectionism, and anxiety, how the two can intersect, and 5 effective ways to beat them. First off… 

What is Perfectionism?  

Perfectionism is a condition that can show up with these symptoms:  

  • Fear-based motivations  
  • Worry and fear around what others think of you  
  • Inability to enjoy one’s accomplishments  
  • Feeling the need to be, feel, and appear “perfect.”  
  • Intense fear of failure  
  • Unrealistic goals  

Over the past 30 years, perfectionism has increased among young people. Some speculate that the pressures of modern life and comparison on social media drive this increase. And our Houston therapists have certainly seen it in our clients.

Later in this blog, we’ll talk about ways to overcome perfectionism along with anxiety.  

Next, let’s talk about anxiety…

What is anxiety?  

Anxiety, also known as Anxiety Disorder, is a mental health condition. It can take many forms, from phobias to social anxiety to Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).   

Some common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Sweaty palms  
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Feeling the need to escape one’s environment  
  • Irritability  Sleep troubles/Insomnia  
  • Overthinking  
  • Difficulty concentrating  
  • Appetite changes  
  • Restlessness  

Did you know that Anxiety Disorders affect nearly 1 in 5 Americans. It’s more common than you might think at first!  

Because you may experience perfectionism and anxiety together, you may wonder if there’s a connection. That’s what we’re going to explore in the next section…  

Is Perfectionism a Form of Anxiety?  

The short answer is that perfectionism and anxiety feed off each other.   

If you’re anxious, that may lead to perfectionism as a coping strategy. Perfectionism can be a way to control other people or your environment. It can also be a way to avoid, block out, or numb your anxiety.  

If you’re too busy to notice, are you really anxious?!  

(Or so the emotional logic goes.)  

Perfectionism can also cause anxiety. Striving to be perfect can cause internal pressure to build, along with anxiety..

This is why self-care is so important for perfectionists who want to reduce their anxiety. Taking your foot off the gas once in a while can go a long way for your mental health.

While psychologists are still studying the complex factors that link perfectionism with anxiety, here’s what we know:  

  • There is an adaptive form and a maladaptive form of perfectionism  
  • The adaptive form is associated with enjoyment of the goal-achieving process and healthy self-esteem  
  • Adaptive perfectionism is driven by a passion for excellence rather than fear of failure  
  • The maladaptive form of perfectionism can be motivated by fear of failure and fear of being imperfect  
  • One study author noted, “Perfectionism has been found to correlate highly with internalized shame.”  
  • Avoiding the reality of that shame is one reason why those who experience perfectionism can also experience anxiety

The stress of having unrealistic standards for oneself can be high, causing anxiety and life dissatisfaction. In another study, researchers concluded “perfectionism significantly and positively predicted social anxiety.” Luckily, Destination Therapy in Houston can help with both, but more on that later.

Before we discuss our 5 effective ways to combat them, let’s take a deeper look.

Pain Points  

The outer presentation of someone with perfectionism and anxiety can be misleading.   

Because criticism from others is feared, a person may hide her imperfections from others. 

One example of hiding imperfections is never seeing someone sick, tired, grumpy, or down. For an anxious perfectionist, the vulnerability of appearing weak or needing help could be too frightening to allow

Another pain point is an intense need for order and consistency. In moderation, these are great qualities. Employees and managers who are orderly and consistent are highly valued.

So, when do these traits become problematic?  

If driven by fear and a need for control, these traits can become toxic and even hinder performance.  

Moving on, the BIGGEST pain point for those with perfectionism and anxiety is perhaps this: Intense criticism coming from the internal critic. Living with an internal critic, dictator, or punisher is unforgiving, and explains why some may be driven to workaholism or substance use.  

Because self-criticism can be so harsh and unrelenting, some can feel beat down. Self-criticism can be just as frightening as receiving criticism from others, such as a work superior or your partner.  

Now that we’ve taken a deeper look, you may be wondering what we can do to beat your perfectionism and anxiety. Here’s what we can do.

How to Beat Perfectionism and Anxiety: 5 Effective Ways  

Are you ready to combat your perfectionism and anxiety? Here are 5 ways we recommend for doing so. 

CBT for Perfectionism and Anxiety  

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to have positive benefits on perfectionism and anxiety. In CBT, you’ll talk to your therapist, and they’ll help you make connections between your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Discussing beliefs and where they may have come from can be helpful for perfectionistic and anxious thinking.  

Mindfulness for Self-Compassion  

Mindfulness has been a go-to strategy for millions of people over the years. In mindfulness, you pay attention to your thoughts and emotional sensations. By observing them, you may be able to get some distance from them and see them as nothing more than thoughts and sensations. By growing the space between noticing and reacting to them, you may be able to respond more healthily during moments when perfectionism and anxiety kick into gear. Mindfulness even helps with depression

Reduce Social Media, Reduce Perfectionism and Anxiety  

Another way to reduce the comparison mindset common among perfectionists is to get off social media. As you may be aware, when we see others share their best moments on social media, it becomes easy for us to feel that we’re not living a good life. This is an illusion. Everyone has down moments, but almost nobody shares bad moments on social media like Instagram. We can support you as you step back from social media and start living life according to your true goals, desires, and values.  

Get Realistic About Perfection and What a Good Outcome is  

Make time away from your busy schedule and obligations. Sit down and think about the reality of perfection. Does it really exist? Or is it a fantasy? How do you know when something is perfect? And what are you losing when you spend so much time trying to perfect something? Remember that there’s always an opportunity cost associated with how you spend your time. If you’re using 3 hours to do a half-hour task, you’re allocating tons of hours every day to pursuing perfection. Couldn’t those extra hours be used to reach more important goals? If you need help challenging perfectionistic thinking, Destination Therapy can help you.  

Prioritize Your Tasks with the ABCF Method  

According to Harvard Psychology associate instructor Dr. Szymanski, “when your strategy is to make no mistakes, that’s when perfectionism starts veering off in the wrong direction.” To combat this, he recommends using the ABCF method. For things that you want to be perfect at, give them an A. Above average? Give it a B. If you’re okay being average at something, give it a C. And if you don’t care about how well you do something, give it an F and eliminate it. Once you’ve categorized your tasks, prioritize your effort and time accordingly.  

Defeating Perfectionism and Anxiety for Good  

There you have it. That’s 5 effective ways to overcome your perfectionism and anxiety in 2023 and beyond. These are timeless exercises and practices you can use whenever these symptoms pop up. If you’d like help tackling these tough mental health challenges, we can help. At Destination Therapy, our therapists are highly trained and passionate about helping you find relief. So don’t let perfectionism and anxiety sap your energy longer than they have to. Contact us today to get started with a free consultation.

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