“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” -Salvador Dali
While artist Salvador Dali tells us not to fear perfection, that doesn’t mean many of us don’t strive for it. We want our work to be perfect. Our relationships to be perfect. Our holiday dinners to come off without a hitch.
As we find out when the work has flaws, the relationships have bigger flaws and someone burns the holiday turkey, perfection and reality rarely – if ever – match. Yet that striving for perfection is a way of life for many, a way of life that can fuel our fears, increase anxiety and actually kill us.
Perfectionism and Fears
A study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences had 189 university students complete the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS) and the Fear Survey III. The MPS measures different varieties of perfectionism, and an analysis of the two surveys found:
- Self-oriented perfectionism, which stems from self-imposed demands: Linked to fears of losing control, making mistakes, feeling angry and failure.
- Socially prescribed perfectionism, which stems from the perceived demands of other people: Linked to fears of looking foolish and being criticized as well as losing control, making mistakes, feeling angry and failure.
- Other-oriented perfectionism, which stems from expecting others to be perfect: Not linked to any specific fears.
Perfectionism and Anxiety
Anxiety disorders and perfectionism “go hand in hand,” a Health magazine article says. It does make sense that people who constantly feel like they have to live up to the impossible standards found in perfectionism would be full of anxiety. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the more common anxiety disorders linked to perfectionism.
Perfectionism and Suicide
A study published in Review of General Psychology found the association between perfectionism and suicide may be stronger than previously thought. Contributing factors include links between perfectionism and:
- Psychological pain
- Life stress
Researchers also found perfectionists often unwilling to ask for help, as they have to keep up appearances. They are also prone to perfect a precise suicide plan. The findings were alarming enough for researchers to suggest perfectionism be viewed as a factor for suicide intervention and risk assessment.
Perfectionism and Driving Fears
The ongoing stress of striving for perfection can likewise increase driving fears and driving anxiety. You may not only fear making the slightest error while driving, but you may also be prone to thinking you’re a failure if you don’t conquer your driving phobia or fears in one fell swoop. Working through driving fears takes time, sometimes with a few backward steps. As long as you continue working forward, however, your efforts should be applauded, not matter how small. Your efforts don’t need to be big. They just need to be consistent. And they surely don’t need to be perfect.