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'My brain feels like it's been punched': the intolerable rise of perfectionism

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a personality trait, which can be an endless pursuit of high standards in every area of our lives, but can also be a 'disorder' like condition or a phobia, akin to 'Fear of Failure'.

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'My brain feels like it's been punched': the intolerable rise of perfectionism

'My brain feels like it's been punched': the intolerable rise of perfectionism

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/17/my-brain-feels-like-its-been-punched-the-intolerable-rise-of-perfectionism

theguardian.com

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Key Ideas

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a personality trait, which can be an endless pursuit of high standards in every area of our lives, but can also be a 'disorder' like condition or a phobia, akin to 'Fear of Failure'.

Constant Mental Punishment

The trait of perfectionism constantly makes a person judge, compare and criticize suboptimal decisions or mistakes in any aspect of the daily routine.

A person starts having mental difficulties, striving to do everything the perfect way, but falling short eventually.

The Voice In The Head

Perfectionism is a voice in our head, constantly fed by the media and society's ideals, coaxing us into doing things in the best way, to get the desired results. 

It is useful in its purpose but in extremities can have negative effects on the body and mind.

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Perfectionist Behavior
Perfectionist Behavior

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While settin...

Perfectly Curated Life

Perfectionism is a growing cultural phenomenon that has engulfed a large set of people including celebrities. Some of the causes are:

  • Modern parenting
  • Competitive economy
  • Consumerism and advertising
  • Social Media.
Perfectionism x1000

Social Media acts as the biggest culprit in amplifying perfectionism as youngsters can constantly compare their looks and their lives to others in easily measurable ways.

There is an increased expectation from our family and our peers to be perfect in all aspects of our lives.

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Do a weekly review to reflect on your progress
Do a weekly review to reflect on your progress

Try to identify things you avoided due to fear of failure and situations where your perfectionism wasn’t worth it or moments where you did well despite being uncertain.

You...

Get an outside perspective on your perfectionist tendencies

Talk honestly and openly to someone about your tendencies and how you’re working on getting better.

Ask them to tell you when you are being too fussy about something so you can think about it.

Interrupting the cycle of rumination
  • Take note of when you’re ruminating and what triggers it until you can see your patterns and find ways to counteract them.
  • Don't trust your first reaction when ruminating. Most of the time, it colors negatively your read of the situation.
  • Seek a diversion to break the rumination cycle.
  • Think positively: remembering your successes and times you tried new things helps you to not be avoidant of tasks you can’t do perfectly.

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“Done” is always better than “Perfect”
“Done” is always better than “Perfect”

“Perfect” and “productive” aren’t the same thing; perfectionism is actually counterproductive.

Just because society is placing a higher value on perfection doesn’t mean you...

3 types of perfectionism
  • Self-oriented: when people are highly critical of themselves.
  • Other-oriented: when people are highly critical of others.
  • Socially-prescribed: when people think others expect them to be perfect and then pressure themselves to be perfect in order to meet those expectations.
What causes perfectionism
  • Competitive work environments: If you work in a culture that demands perfection, you’ll probably start demanding perfection.
  • Pride and personality: Some persons have personalities that are naturally susceptible to perfectionism.
  • Fear of failure: People identify with their failure. They will strive for perfection as self-preservation.

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Perfectionism

It can either propel you into serious action or paralyze your ability to accomplish even the most basic tasks.

Often, those who struggle with perfectionism have issues giving up control. In ...

Accept the outcome

If you’re struggling with the thought of submitting a task that you feel is less than perfect, create a list of the worst-case scenarios.

Ask yourself what's the worst that can happen. You'll most likely find out that the only negative aspect is the continuous rumination that'll keep you from finishing other important work.

Shifting your perspective

The positive side of perfectionism is the idea that you possess the motivation and a level of detailed attention that is unmatched by many.

The trouble happens, though, when you get so caught up in the details that you fail to see the bigger picture.

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False memories are common

We all misremember things. However, false memories are not so much mistakes but can be very detailed fantasies. Some people remember precise details of an event they attended, only to later real...

False memories have benefits

False memories are not useless. It seems that they're able to improve our mental processing.

Memories are our reality. Remembering isn't just looking up fact's from our mental files. It's more like telling stories. If we forget, we reconstruct the details, even if the details are false.

Memory conformity

When we remember what something 'should' look like, we will often construct a memory to fit the mould. 

False memories can also happen to groups and could lead to mass delusions. People were shown a fake CCTV footage of a shop robbery and discussed what they’d seen. One of the participants introduced false ideas: the thief had a gun, right? Three in four people later recounted these fabricated ‘facts’ when questioned.

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3 types of perfectionism
  • Self-oriented: the irrational desire to be perfect.
  • Socially prescribed: perceiving excessive expectations from others.
  • Other-oriented: placing unrealistic...
Perfectionism harms productivity

Seeking perfection can create paralysis that hurts productivity. 

You procrastinate to distract yourself from the big scary tasks you have to do. And you end up beating yourself up later because you wasted so much time.

Julie Morgenstern
Julie Morgenstern

“Perfectionism is a pretty rampant problem (...) It may be worse in an era of social media where everybody’s posting the most curated, best, perfect lives and achievements. We’re constantly surrounding by the best way, the perfect way, the right way in our personal and our work lives.” 

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Not Celebrating Your Success

It's never good enough, so you get sucked so far into the details that you become frustrated.

Even when your goal is complete and results in success, you believ...

Pursuing Perfection, But Never Feeling Perfect

Even if you have a clear goal of what perfection means, obsessively pursuing it is a sign of insecurity.

And insecurity, when not addressed directly, doesn’t go away because a concrete objective has been achieved, it manifests itself into self-criticism or a new overvalued goal.

Not Allowing Yourself To Fail

Instead of forgiving and viewing mistakes as a learning opportunity, you criticize and put pressure on yourself for not predicting a less than perfect outcome. You feel inadequate, and these feelings preoccupy your mind, often to the point of losing productivity.

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Denying you have a problem

Stop saying that you don't have enough time to complete your commitments.

Admit that you need to get better at managing your time and start searching and trying techniques that will help you ...

Not planning your day

It's important to have an idea of what your daily priorities are and tasks you need to complete, preferably the night before. 

Also, make sure you prepare in the evening the outfit you're going to wear and the meals for the following day. Doing this will save time in the morning, and reduce decision fatigue.

"Urgent" vs "Important"

Take all of your tasks and place them into four quadrants:

  • To do first: the most important responsibilities that need to be done today or tomorrow.
  • Schedule: important tasks that are not urgent.
  • Delegate: essential items that are not important.
  • Don't do: tasks that aren't important or urgent. 

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How to recognize your strengths

If you want to excel at anything, it’s not enough to fix your weaknesses. You also need to leverage your strengths.

If you want to recognize your strengths, you need other people to hold up a...

Choose your sources

Identify 10-20 people who know you well from a mix of personal and professional contacts, and ask them to write a story about a time when you were at your best. It is best if the sources are specific with concrete examples.

Spot patterns

Once the feedback arrives, look for the common themes that appear in multiple stories. Make a list of the themes, the key examples that support each theme, and what they suggest about your strengths.

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Create the conditions to write
Create the conditions to write
  • Make the time for writing. We all have those absent-minded moments in our day when we're not doing anything. If we use that time to write, we can actually get a lot done...
There's no one "right" way to write

Some people plan ahead their and outline their novels, others just jump in a wing it.Experiment, start with something and see what works for you.

Try to show up for your characters. It's not important how you do it, as long as you do it.

Find your people
  1. When you feel a bit stuck, and walking the dog or organizing the closet doesn't help, speak to a friend with a different way of thinking. Or talk to a friend who's writing a book.aaa

  2. You don't just have to stick to friends. Reach out to other writers who can talk through any issue you're having with your book.

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