Perfectionism: How Striving to be the Best can Leave us at our Worst

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

We are commonly told that no one in the world is “perfect”, and that there is no such thing as “perfection”. Or so they say. Then why do so many people around the world still try to aim for this standard of “perfect” in what they do in life?

Perfectionists are individuals who strive for flawlessness. They set very high standards and expectations for themselves, have a set way of wanting to do things, and take time to be truly satisfied with their work. Aiming for perfectionism definitely has benefits. We all know that one person from school or work who would be the “perfectionist”: they would be the most successful, put out high quality work, and constantly keep pushing boundaries so that their final products are amazing.

However, being a perfectionist has its disadvantages and dangers. Individuals who seek to be “perfect” set extremely high standards for themselves, which results in their being very critical of themselves. Perfectionists tend to notice and fixate on all of their flaws, as they wish to not only produce “perfect” work but also to be “perfect” people. Whenever a perfectionist make mistakes, as does everyone in the world, he or she is unable to look past the “failure” and thus feel extreme guilt, shame, and sadness.

Perfectionistic thinking underlies several mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, OCD, and eating disorders. It can even lead to suicidal thoughts. Perfectionists’ inability to accept failure, constant self-criticism, and desire to act, be, and look perfect, drives them towards unhealthy behaviors and thinking. They are constantly hard on themselves for not achieving “perfect,” which is inevitable because there is no such thing as perfect! These patterns of thinking and negative behaviors need to be monitored for the risks they present in causing mental illness.

Instead of striving for “perfection,” we should be encouraging others and ourselves to be the best versions of who we are. Remind people that there is in fact a beauty in accepting yourself and your positive attributes, and in being kind to yourself. Encourage people to accept themselves, make mistakes, and to strive to not look perfect. We should truly appreciate ourselves and accept BOTH the good and the imperfect. By addressing and changing the perfectionist way of thinking, we can better prevent, understand, and heal many mental illnesses.

If you or someone you know is suffering from any of the aforementioned symptoms, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit

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