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Mental Health

Perfection Leads to Poor Mental Health, Experts Say

— January 19, 2023

A need for everything to be perfect can cause overwhelm and burnout.

Perfectionists can have a difficult time at work and in relationships according to Professor Gordon Parker, whose study created a link between perfectionism, poor mental health and burnout. Many people consider perfectionism at work a virtue – a worker with excellent high standards. In reality, such a perfectionist has set himself impossible standards and is filled with criticism for himself and others.

A perfectionist lives with the daily fear of being found out as less than perfect and of making an actual mistake. For this type of personality, achievement is all that matters and the sole source of satisfaction. He or she is virtually unable to enjoy the process, just the end results and only if these end results meet their expectations.

The perfectionist is usually the first person to arrive at work and the last one to leave the office. The job, and the fear of not doing it better than anyone else, can take over his or her life. It is at this point that relationships suffer and burnout becomes evident. The sole focus becomes the tasks at hand and the perfectionist is unable to separate from this, leading to a poor mental state.

Perfection Leads to Poor Mental Health, Experts Say
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Perfectionism and burnout are mostly considered a workplace problem, but they can affect life outside of the office. People with unyielding standards at work can show signs of perfectionism in their relationships, which can cause them to become disconnected from their friends and family. It is, obviously, difficult to spend significant time with someone who demands perfection, and this character trait can naturally push others away.

Perfectionists are likely to keep searching for that perfect partner – that one flawless person that must exist somewhere (who, in reality, doesn’t exist). A perfectionist’s expectations in a relationship can include:

  1. Never engaging in an argument or disagreement. A perfectionist will perpetually live in fear of being judged as less than perfect, so he or she will not tolerate a challenge to this facade.
  2. Expecting a partner to magically know what he or she is thinking or needs. This type of mind reading is impossible. Always having the other person available. When this doesn’t happen, it can lead to resentment and withdrawal from the “imperfect” partner.
  3. Assuming a partner will never appreciate or be friends with members of the opposite sex creates a relationship without trust and will end up causing in anxiety – the first sign of relationship burnout.
  4. A relationship perfectionist’s ideal is to spend all free time with his or her partner. Having a partner who engages in different interests with or without other people is seen as a threat, and again, this can lead to anxiety and frustration.
  5. The inability to accept flawed behavior. Everyone will make errors. People may gain weight, lose a job, or act in an unacceptable way. This is simply part of being human. However, the relationship perfectionist is unable to deal with this or bring any support to the “flawed” partner.

Of course, should an individual with this personality shows signs of being less than perfect, they are typically unwilling to accept this. Even if they acknowledge their flaws internally, they likely won’t express any knowledge of them. Of course, this comes across to others as narcissistic and can be very off-putting.

Relationship burnout happens when someone feels detached from a loved one and is filled with negative feelings. When this happens, communicating with one’s partner is essential. Make spending time together a priority. Otherwise, distress and poor mental health persist.

Instead of expecting the partner to take care of one’s every need, a perfectionist should begin practicing conscious self-care to prevent burnout. Limiting any known stressors and doing things for oneself are not selfish acts; they are a necessary ingredient to a healthy relationship.


People with perfectionist traits more prone to burnout: Study

The Link between Perfectionism and Burnout

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