Perfectionism: it’s more than just high standards or wanting to excel. Instead, perfectionism is the setting of unattainable standards and making self-worth contingent upon meeting those standards. In other words, it’s like constantly running a race where the finish line can never be crossed.

We’ve talked about perfectionism on the podcast before (here and here), but thanks to social media, the issue has been turbocharged to the point that it bears another look.

Interestingly, imperfection is hot right now. Fitness gurus are posting their belly rolls on social media, “fails” videos attract way more attention than perfectly executed performances, and the otherworldly, filtered version of life on Instagram has been declared over.

But unrealistic goals and extreme expectations still permeate society like a single drop of ink colors a glass of water. We’re always looking to be even more productive, attractive, high-achieving, wealthy, or famous. 

Indeed, sometimes perfectionism can seem to work for us. A study in the Journal of Research in Personality found that self-oriented perfectionism, which, as the name implies, is focused on reaching one’s own sky-high standards, can actually go along with better physical health.

By contrast, with socially prescribed perfectionism, which is when we behave as if everything is a performance for a harshly critical audience, our health suffers.

So, which type of perfectionism is the real troublemaker? And if perfectionism is bad, why? After all, perfectionists are hard workers, have high standards, and often look fabulous. What’s so bad about that? 

The problem is that perfectionism isn’t necessarily about striving for perfection. Instead, it’s the nagging feeling of never being good enough. Perfectionism has many causes, but the end result is a creeping, constant feeling of inadequacy and fear of failure.

At the end of the day, everyone is looking for security, connection, and a bone-deep feeling that we are really, truly enough as we are. In today’s culture, those things are elusive and rare.

But there is hope! This week, rather than searching for a more optimized to-do list or a more efficient workout, we’ll cover 5 ways to chip away at the entire mindset of perfectionism.

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