What is perfectionism and what are the causes of perfectionism? perfectionism is a refusal to accept any standard short of perfection and the tendency to hold oneself to an unrealistically high standard.
Perfectionism sounds like a great trait to have. perfectionism may benefit a person in a chosen profession if that person strives for perfection. I would love for my doctor or auto mechanic to strive for perfection when providing me service.
What I call modern perfectionism is a slightly different animal and is affecting your world in a major way. You feel it but you may not know what to call it. I call it Modern Perfectionism because the causes are slightly different than the causes of perfectionism.
Let’s look at the causes of Perfectionism, the rise, pros, and cons, and why it matters in your life.
What Is Modern Perfectionism
Modern Perfectionism differs only in the driving causes of perfectionism. The most noticeable form of perfectionism is self-oriented Perfectionism.
Self-oriented perfectionism is the practice of holding oneself to an unrealistically high standard. Other forms of perfectionism involve having unrealistic expectations of others.
The form of Perfectionism that has been on the rise recently is socially prescribed Perfectionism.
“socially prescribed perfectionism is the most debilitating of the three dimensions of perfectionism,” – Curran and Hall
Socially prescribed perfectionism leaves a person with the feeling of anxiety, paranoia, and the feeling that everyone is watching and waiting for them to make a mistake or fail. Like someone following with a cellphone to capture that moment you fail to make it go viral.
That feeling often leads to growing social alienation, neurotic self-examination, and a sense of being overwhelmed.
“Fear of negative social evaluation, characterized by a focus on deficiencies, and sensitive to criticism and failure“ says – Curran and Hall
The possibility of suffering from these feelings is exponentially multiplied by the technological world we live in today. We are connected and scrutinized 24 hours a day.
Many feel one wrong move or miscalculation and the world will know all about it in minutes. Real or imagined.
Do you ever have those feelings in your private or professional life? Modern perfectionism maybe? What are the causes of perfectionism?
What Are The Causes Of Perfectionism
When experts look for the rising causes of Perfectionism in millennials they point to a society that overly champions competition, and ambitiousness and discourages cooperation.
A society that overly associates self-worth with money and professional achievement. Where win at all costs is the rule and greed is good. A cutthroat world where everyone is on their own and out for personal gain.
Yeah, we are talking about today’s world where millennials are forced to become their own brand ambassadors promoting themselves 24 hours a day to the masses, cooping with constant approval and disapproval by the minute.
It’s not surprising a society governed by these Neoliberal values produces very judgmental people, that are very anxious and nervous about being judged.
Neoliberalism – “ideology and policy model that emphasizes the value of free-market competition. Although there is considerable debate as to the defining features of neoliberal thought and practice, it is most commonly associated with laissez-faire economics” – Encyclopaedia Britannica
Say what now? Is that what “Neoliberal” really means? Yep! I bet that caught many of you by surprise. In the United States when you think “Liberal” you tend to imagine the opposite.
The term “Neoliberal” takes its meaning from the more European definition of liberal in the political sense. Not so much from the American meaning.
The Pros and Cons of Perfectionism
Perfectionism conjures up thoughts of perfection and all that is good but there is a dark side. The causes of modern perfectionism and its dark side should be acknowledged.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of dealing with a perfectionist is well aware of the many complications that come with this sort of personality trait but there is more.
We all believe we know people that exhibit the perfectionist trait and they seem to be great at what they do but we may not be aware of what is lurking under the surface.
Modern perfectionism is a whole other animal because of the speed of technology, Neoliberalism, supply and demand world we have created.
The sheer speed and competition cause many to suffer from extreme doubts and concerns over making mistakes and believing others are watching and waiting for them to fail and many times they are correct.
Below are some of the terms negatively associated with perfectionism:
- Highly Anxiety
- Eating Disorders
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Mental Illness
Many people evaluate friends and family through those same goggles causing extreme stress in their relationships. Why is there a rise in perfectionism in millennials and many other people all around the world?
It’s this dog-eat-dog growing appetite for imagined excellence at all costs. The ideology celebrates unhealthy competition, discourages cooperation, promotes unhealthy ambition, and overly associates personal worth with wealth and professional achievement.
The Capitalist so-called free market society with 24-hour access to all of its ills is driving the rise of modern perfectionism higher and higher as we speak (you read LOL). The pressure to compete professionally and personally under the watchful eye of friends, foes, and technology is proving to be too much.
Are you affected?
The Dog Eat Dog That Drives Modern Perfectionism
Just imagine throwing a golden retriever into a dogfighting ring with a Pitbull (sorry for the analogy but it gets better). Imagine the anxiety in the golden retriever days before knowing that day is coming. Sounds familiar?
The Pitbull has it no easier. Imagine the Pitbull’s anxiety knowing it has a fight coming and has no idea of the capabilities of its opponent. What character traits would you develop living in that type of world?
Both of these dogs like most humans just want to be loving family members and be happy. They would rather not play in the deadly arena. Why do humans volunteer?
You may cringe at the thought of a Golden Retriever being forced to fight a Pit Bull in a dogfighting ring but do think twice about the society created today where human beings face that scenario daily.
Yeah, life in today’s world can be that brutal and that seems to be the way the masses like it. Many private and personal lives play out like a version of The Hunger Games.
Is Neoliberalism a modern-day version of the real Hunger Games? Maybe not, but I agree it is a huge driver as one of the causes of perfectionism and its growing ills. Along with Laissez-Faire Capitalism, consumerism, and deregulation.
Curran and Hill say it best:
“Neoliberal ideology reveres competition, discourages cooperation, promotes ambition, and tethers personal worth to professional achievement. Unsurprisingly, societies governed by these values make people very judgmental, and very anxious about being judged”
What do you think?
How To Avoid The Perfectionism Trap
If you would like to avoid the modern causes of perfectionism follow many of the guidelines below. If you have anything to add you believe would be helpful explain in the comments below.
Change how you think of the world because how you think lays the foundations for the attitude you bring into every situation. Create a foundation that allows you not to be so hard on yourself. Allow for abundance. Don’t become dogfighting over a bone. Most life situations are not so critical.
Develop appropriate personal expectations and standards that rule your actions throughout your day. Choose to be civil. Be cognizant of the effects of living in a capitalistic free-market society.
There is constant and increasing pressure to compete professionally and personally but don’t allow them to negatively affect you.
Learn to make constant assessments of situations that begin to stress you out or cause you to feel the negative effects of modern perfectionism.
Take an honest cost-benefit analysis of these situations and act appropriately. Learn from those experiences and adjust future behaviors for better outcomes.
Learn to focus on what really matters. What helps me is to live a minimalist lifestyle. A lifestyle that focuses on the essential and really important.
Minimalists focus on experiences over stuff and quality over quantity. It allows me to figure out what really makes me happy and get rid of the rest.
find out what works for you in that respect to yield positive results.