Updated: Mar 31, 2022
‘Perfect’ has become a household word in these modern times. Being flawless is considered superior. Perfect match, perfect job, perfect destination, perfect shot. It comes as no surprise that ‘perfectionism’ has evolved into being ‘unhealthy’ at times.
Perfectionism is a personality disposition characterized by striving for flawlessness and setting exceedingly high standards for performance, accompanied by tendencies for overly critical evaluations.
Perfectionism is the need to appear perfect or to be perfect. This is viewed to be positive by many. There is a thin line between aspiring towards the result and striving for perfection. Perfection is subjective. What is perfect for someone need not be perfect for another person. In the same way, perfection can differ from time to time. What might seem perfect to you right now, may not be so when you reach that degree of perfection. Hence perfectionism can be dysfunctional when it comes to progress. Perfectionism is highly prevalent in sports and the arts.
In sports, perfectionism is a double-edged sword! It’s human to strive for perfection, aim for record breaks, and be the best performer among your peers. But it’s even more important to keep yourself in check on which side of the line of perfectionism do you fall; healthy or unhealthy? Here are some of the easily noticeable signs that you are on the wrong side- an unhealthy perfectionist.
● Highly self-critical: Athletes who are very critical, can have sudden spikes of motivations and burnout levels. Unhealthy perfectionists being highly critical of themselves, find it unbearable to be the object of others’ criticism. This fear also keeps them at bay from trying out new things.
● Inconsistent performance: When one becomes highly self-critical, there is a dip in motivation, and the passion may turn burdensome. This can affect an athlete mentally and physically, with inconsistent performance being its outcome.
● Emotional rollercoaster: These athletes go through various emotions that impact their well-being and performance. Some of the common emotions they experience are guilt, pride, anger, frustration, sadness. Due to these emotions and lack of self-empathy, they may get into self-loathing and hence low self-esteem. Violent expression of these towards the teammates and peers can affect the relationships to a great extent.
● Frequent panic attacks: This very often develops from a frequent fear of disapproval and insecurity. These perfectionists look forward to being applauded for their ‘perfectness’. So, fear of failing themselves, their peers, coaches, and family causes them to panic before the start of every competition.
● Distant from sleep: Perfectionism can never be on good terms with good sleep and thus good performance. This is because the stress and anxiety built due to the pressure of being perfect tend to make them an insomniac. This sets them into a cycle of distress: insomnia → poor performance → increase in stress and anxiety, which again results in insomnia.
If you find yourself unable to accept anything short of your expectations and the above signs are evident in you, it’s time to deviate your mind with new thinking. It is important to note that we can manage perfectionism and ensure it doesn’t impact well-being and performance in a negative way. If you are an athlete struggling hard to break away from unhealthy perfectionism, do not delay in consulting a sports psychologist. The sooner, the better.
Few tips to help you steer away from unhealthy perfectionism:
1. Self-awareness: Be aware of your self-critical nature over the tasks that you do. Be conscious about your thoughts and the way you feel when you focus on getting things done perfectly.
2. Time-bound: Set a time limit on each task that you do. Make sure you stick to it. When you set a time limit and adhere to it, you’ll know to get work done in the limited time that you have.
3. Realistic nature: Be realistic about what you can do and accept it. Love yourself, your shortcomings, and your faults. It was your failures that encouraged you to strive for a better self. Be thankful, once in a while, for the failures that pushed you forward.
In a nutshell:
Strive for perfection, but don’t drown yourself in the illusionary pool of perfectionism!