When you miss the mark on something, do you accuse yourself of “not being cut out” for the job and ruminate on it for days? Do you compare your life to others and think you’re not as smart, pretty, fit, or happy enough? In other words, do you feel like you must be 100% perfect, 100% of the time?
An abundance of research suggests that perfectionism is something that largely affects women. Most studies suggest that women are more likely than men to experience feelings of inadequacy at home and work. And even a larger percentage feel they fail to meet their own high standards. And, it gets worse. Studies report that most women will only apply for a job when they feel they have 100% of the qualifications, while men apply for the same job when they have met only 50%. [i]
Perfectionism is not healthy. It can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and even eating disorders. Perfectionism starts at an early age and is a huge problem for young girls and women in America. Sadly, over 65% of high school girls are on a diet to lose weight.
Janice, a director for a large consulting firm summed it up; “I had to get off social media. It was getting to the point where I thought it was damaging my health. I had to delete my Instagram and Facebook accounts because I would get depressed when I saw friends who looked better than me or were doing such amazing things in life. The pressure to be perfect was at the heart of my depression. I am an educated woman with a good perspective on life, but it was killing me to see so many of my friends living perfect lives. I was feeling worthless and isolated compared to them.”
So how does a woman combat her need to be a perfectionist? Many psychologists advise that it’s important for a woman to know that it’s one thing to be their best and another to be perfect. Overcoming this debilitating phenomenon is not easy and takes a lot of introspection, self-reflection, and vulnerability.
If you suffer from life’s perfectionistic curse, do a simple reality check. Like Janice, who shared that social media was causing her to feel anxious and depressed, take stock of where you are in life and ask yourself if perfectionism negatively affects you. If so, study the reasons why this may be happening and think about strategies to help you overcome the need to be perfect. And finally, try to adopt a personal mantra to move from "perfect" to "pretty good".
[i] Marsh, S. (2016). The pressure of perfection. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/14/perfect-girls-five-women-stories-mental-health