Although perfectionism is very hard to channel and is often tied to an increase of anxiety and a worse performance in an individual, options to improve and deal with anxiety are available.
Perfectionism and Anxiety
In understanding the link between how perfectionism causes anxiety, studies have revealed their similarities and the layered complexity of perfectionism.
In the academic journal article, “Perfectionistic Concerns Predict Increases in Adolescents’ Anxiety Symptoms: A Three-Wave Longitudinal Study,” author Lavinia Damian mentions, “Moreover, it has shown that different dimensions of perfectionism form two higher-order dimensions: perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns” (qtd. in Damian et al. 552).
Perfectionistic concern is more of feeling the burden to be perfect in order to meet another person’s expectations which largely differs from wanting to improve yourself and striving towards perfectionism. As a result, symptoms of anxiety can arise depending on what type of perfectionism is present in an individual.
Neuroticism which falls under the umbrella of the same symptoms present in an anxiety disorder is shown in higher levels in maladaptive perfectionists compared to non-perfectionists and adaptive perfectionists who are able to channel perfectionism in a healthy and normal way unlike maladaptive perfectionists (qtd. in Gnilka et al. 427).
Perfectionism Can Be a Problem
Being a perfectionist doesn’t warrant worse mental health as exhibited by adaptive perfectionists, but a more specific type of perfectionism is proven to lead to anxiety symptoms. Studies prove that non perfectionists show less anxiety or none at all compared to perfectionists.
The greatest increase of anxiety is clearly linked to maladaptive perfectionists contrasting from the lowest present in non perfectionists (Gnilka et al. 433). Factors for showing anxiety or an increase of it are tied more to personality than expected as the trait perfectionism appears in some people and doesn’t appear in others.
Experiencing anxiety can be caused by possessing perfectionistic qualities more than someone who doesn’t possess those tendencies.
Anxiety can negatively affect academic performance and stunt personal growth. In the article, “Feeling Shy? You Are Not Alone,” the author explains, “You will avoid asking people to do things with you because you might get rejected. It is this avoidance that maintains your social anxiety and keeps you from gaining confidence and having the connections you want with others” (Shannon).
Pushing the limits and getting out of one’s comfort zone is what allows a person to discover their true passion or who they are but anxiety makes it seem practically impossible to do exactly that.
Following that, anxiety doesn’t stop with personal improvement but also takes away from succeeding in the academic aspect. In the academic journal article, “Perfectionistic Students: Contributing Factors, Impacts and Teacher Strategies,” author Courtney Schruder states,
“Anxiety has been linked to lower academic performance, so understanding the link between perfectionism and anxiety is likely important for teachers promoting academic success” (qtd. in Schruder et al. 84).
Perfectionists who experience stress and anxiety, as a result, don’t do well. Underperforming increases anxiety and further perpetuates negative patterns of thinking.
This cycle perpetuates unattainable perfectionism that preserves an unhealthy mental state. In the academic journal article, “Perfectionistic Concerns Predict Increases in Adolescents’ Anxiety Symptoms: A Three-Wave Longitudinal Study,” the author Lavinia Damian describes, “Hence, it is possible that, for these reasons, perfectionistic concerns represent a risk factor for the development and maintenance of anxiety symptoms mainly for older adolescents” (Damian et al. 558).
Perfectionistic tendencies are very hard to avoid and seeing that it only fuels anxiety, it is important to keep a healthy balance as it persists through adolescence into adulthood.
Anxiety takes away so much from a person’s livelihood and leads to the question of what solutions could lessen the inconvenience or completely eliminate the disadvantages.
Solutions and Coping Mechanisms
In the academic journal article, “Perfectionistic Students: Contributing Factors, Impacts and Teacher Strategies,” Courtney Schrudder proposes a questionnaire to keep track of anxiety, saying,
“If no such document is accessible, assist the child with creating one based on their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs regarding expectations and coping… the child will be in a position to see where they have improved and areas that may need more focus” (Schrudder et al. 91).
A strong support system helps in dealing with the pressures of anxiety as it also holds the person accountable. In order to stop reinforcing perfectionism and assist students in not being so self-critical, it is important to address the harmful coping mechanisms that students may resort to and the fact that mistakes are expected and normal to make (Schruder et al. 90).
It can be isolating to deal with perfectionism, but making the topic more approachable can make people more comfortable in approaching the problem. Seeing ways that other people can support those who are struggling with the pressure of anxiety, it should be noted that change only happens when the person themselves decides it does.
Changing one’s mindset from wanting to hit this “perfect bullseye” to instead hitting a target that is both achievable and more personal will allow a person to grow and improve control of one’s stress and anxiety (Shannon). Contrasting the mentality of doing everything to “perfection” to hitting the target gives more leeway and a feeling of accomplishment which is a much-needed change.
The concept of perfectionism is difficult to define. However, it is distinctly associated with anxiety and connects to the least optimal performance of an individual. Perfectionism and anxiety can be alleviated through support from outside resources.
As a lot of students tend to struggle with perfectionism from lows to extremes. Addressing the issue can help one cope with such issues.
For more on coping mechanisms for anxiety, visit this article.
- Damian, Lavinia E., et al. “Perfectionistic Concerns Predict Increases in Adolescents’ Anxiety Symptoms:
- A Three-Wave Longitudinal Study.” Anxiety, Stress & Coping, vol. 30, no. 5, Sept. 2017, pp. 551–561. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/10615806.2016.1271877.
- Gnilka, Philip B., et al. “Multidimensional Perfectionism and Anxiety: Differences Among Individuals
- With Perfectionism and Tests of a Coping-Mediation Model.” Journal of Counseling & Development, vol. 90, no. 4, Oct. 2012, pp. 427–436. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2012.00054.x.
- Schruder, Courteny R., Sharpe, Glynn W. B., Curwen, Tracey. “Perfectionistic Students: Contributing
- Factors, Impacts and Teacher Strategies.” Journal of Elementary Education, vol. 24, no. 1, 2014, pp. 79–98. http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/JEE/PDF-Files/6_Courtney%20R.%20Schruder,%20Glynn%20W.%20B.%20Sharpe%20&%20Tracey%20Curwen_24_1_2014.pdf. Accessed 7 Jan. 2022.
- Shannon, Jennifer. “Feeling Shy? You Are Not Alone.” KidSpirit Magazine, vol. 11, no. 4, Summer 2019, pp. 1–4. EBSCOhost
Mary Cate Cone
Such a great article!December 3, 2022 at 6:47 pm