Perfectionism and depression are opposites that often seem to attract each other, and the combination can be a great challenge for anyone trying to “live creatively with moods.”
Depression enhances our brain’s natural tendency to see problems in the world around us… it shines a spotlight on every imperfection. It is a perfectionist’s nightmare.
Striving for success, trying to improve, these impulses are at the heart of much that is good in the world.
The trouble is when the wish to become better transforms itself into the fear of any imperfection.
The perfectionist takes no pleasure in life’s journey. His or her mission is to eliminate the odd, idiosyncratic, or unusual. Following the rules can become an obsession.
Needless to say, the perfectionist does not usually have much of a sense of humor.
Ask yourself, do you…
- Often get bogged down in trying to follow the rules and paying attention to the details, so that the purpose of the task is lost?
- Frequently become so focused on not making a mistake that it is impossible to finish a project?
- Feel that work is so important that you avoid taking vacations, or work through most of your weekends?
- Have such high moral standards that it interferes with your relationships?
- Find it hard to delegate work to others because you are pretty sure it won’t be done right?
- Devote yourself to saving money so much that you find it hard to enjoy doing anything that costs money?
If you said yes to most of these, you may be too much of a perfectionist.
What to do?
People wrestling with perfectionism and depression, may need to work on both problems in order to make much progress. Just tackling the depression may not be enough.
Strategies for dealing with perfectionism include:
- Self compassion
- Acceptance (a key component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)
- Emotion focused therapy