The beautifully imperfect Anne Lamott, in her book Bird By Bird, says "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. The enemy of the people." Truer words have never been spoken. Perfectionism crushes your self-esteem, makes you suffer needlessly, affects your relationships with others, and pretty much just saps your enjoyment of life.
According to Carolyn Gregoire in an article for the Huffington Post, perfectionism is highly associated with anxiety and depression. According to my medicine cabinet, and my massive spike of unfinished projects, this is true. On the surface, it doesn't seem like perfectionism would negatively impact self-esteem. I mean, perfectionists are typically pretty good at things. Maybe a lot of things. Many of them are super successful. So how could that translate to a hurricane of negative feels?
Because no one is perfect all the time. Eventually you're going to fail. Eventually your luck of being good at everything you try is going to run out. Eventually, you're going to disappoint someone or come in second. And by eventually, I mean, a lot. Perfectionists see these fails as deeply personal. As defining. As a statement about what the world thinks of them as people.
Perfectionism is a self-fulfilling prophecy of low self-esteem. Here are some more reasons you need to get your perfectionism under control if you want to get your self-esteem in check.
1. You Ignore Your Greatness
In your quest for perfection, you miss out on a lot of greatness. If you were able to reign it in and appreciate how much effort you put into things (usually way more than necessary and certainly way more than everyone else) you'd be awash in praise and happiness.
2. You Hurt Your Relationships
One type of perfectionism, referred to as socially-prescribed perfectionism, causes you to believe that others have really high expectations for your behavior, according to Timothy A Pychyl Ph.D. in an article for Psych Central. Basically, your drive is fueled by the idea that no one thinks you're good enough. It's hard to have a healthy relationship with someone when you feel like a constant disappointment.
3. You Forget What Defines You
When you're wrapped up in perfectionism, it's easy to put too much stock in your job, your relationships, or how much money you have, according to mental health website Healthy Place. In reality, these are just parts of your life, but not what defines you.
3. You Stack Up Half-Accomplishments
Perfectionists have a bad habit of quitting before they get started, according to self-help website Personal Excellence. You never learn to play guitar because you suck at it when you start out. You give up on your nail art blog because there are others who are better than you. If you don't ever finish things, you miss the self-esteem boost associated with completing a task or finishing a goal.
4. You Don't Accept Compliments
Maybe you spend an hour trying to get your eyeliner wings even and they were still a little off. Sure, anyone you ran into would have to look really closely to even notice, but you know. And when someone tells you how your makeup is on fleek, you just go on about those dang wings. Perfectionists have trouble letting the praise flow into their inner self-esteem vaults because they have unrealistically high standards, according to About Health.
5. You Struggle Needlessly
Your all-or-nothing thinking and your hatred of being a beginner-level anything makes you worry about things you don't need to worry about. You're also less likely to ask for help or accept offers for help. Because you don't need help. Because you can do anything on the first try no matter what and make it great. Then you wonder why you struggle at things that seem to come so easily to others.
6. You Compare Yourself To Others
Your very first oil painting on your very first day of oil painting class wasn't a full-on Monet, so obviously you suck. As the Pinterest quote goes, you constantly compare your beginning to someone else's middle. This makes you feel like you suck. Or that you need to try harder. In reality, you just need practice and time.
7. You Get Trapped
So you procrastinated a few times. Now you're obsessing over a project for work and school, and next thing you know, you're in a dirty house, surrounded by take out and you haven't showered in two days. And the project still isn't as good as you envisioned. And now, on top of feeling like a failure, you feel like a gross, dirty failure in a messy house who fails at adulting and projects. Sigh
Never feeling like you're good enough and constantly striving to meet unrealistic expectations is pretty much the official recipe of low self-esteem. Remember that we are all works in progress.