Being a Perfectionist Has Dangerous Side Effects, So Give Yourself a Break

busy mom with kidsWe are surrounded by messages encouraging us to be not just better than we are right this very second, but PERFECT. The perfect size, the perfect parent with the perfect marriage, living in a perfectly clean home and pulling down the perfectly large salary. But now relief has arrived for all of us secretly lazy people: A new study on striving for perfectionism says the habit will eventually, probably implode your life.


In a new article published in the Personality and Social Psychology Review, researchers combed through 43 studies of perfectionism done over the last 20 years.

Although we, ahem, can't vouch that they did so perfectly.

What the scientists discovered was that being a perfectionist -- i.e., someone who likes everything that they do to be JUST so -- isn't necessarily a bad thing. Having a ton of self-motivation helps you get things done and done well, whether it's giving your kid a blow-out, kick-ass birthday party that they will never forget or getting up at 4 a.m. to run (yes, it happens) every single day.

But don't pat yourself on the back just yet, oh ye perfectionistic peeps. Because there's also a seriously dark side to this A+ lifestyle. You might be constantly worrying about making mistakes, for instance, or stressing that you're letting someone down.

And chances are that you spend a hella time wondering how, exactly, you'll live up to your (unealistically) high standards.

More from The Stir: Letting Go of 'Perfect' Made Me a Better Mom

Over the long term, the consequences of perfectionism are pretty far from perfect. Think depression, anxiety, eating disorders, fatigue, and even a shorter lifespan.

Perfectionism, the study's researchers caution, can eventually lead to burnout. In other words, you may wake up one day to find dishes in the sink -- that YOU left there. (And look at them, say, "Eh," and walk away.)

But what's even worse than becoming a cynic? The serious friction perfectionism can cause in your relationships. It makes sense. If you view every mistake as a disaster, who wants to listen to your freakouts ALL the time?

So what can you do to curb your own perfectionist habits? Start rewarding yourself for other traits instead, resaerchers suggest. Specifically, creativity, effort, and stick-with-it-ness.

And if you need some motivation, think of it this way: Now you can strive to be perfectly imperfect. Which is not only easier, but SO much healthier. 


Image via ArtisticCaptures/iStock

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