Perfectionism and Anxiety: the connection?

Anyone an only child out there? For those who are, I bet you enjoyed your independence as a child. I know I did! I also developed a lot of habits and beliefs as well, such as needing to be as perfect as possible.

I can’t seem to find a source of why I needed to be as perfect as possible, but I don’t point blame. Yes, perhaps having no other focus but only on myself could’ve done it. Or maybe I had so much TIME to ruminate with my own thoughts that I created a perfectionist side without knowing. That’s not the important thing. It’s the past. Right now, I struggle with an anxiety disorder that I am beginning to believe has a connection to perfectionism.

What came first? Some people will say that anxiety comes first and it creates a form of perfectionism. However, I feel that when one has a perfectionist-type personality, it is a fine breeding ground for an anxiety disorder.

Wikipedia defines perfectionism as a “strive for flawlessness while setting high standards.” Perfectionism involves critical self-evaluation. In a positive sense, it can really motivate people to achieve goals; however, in a negative sense, it can drive one to reach unrealistic goals, which leads to depression and low self-esteem.

Take some of the thousands of symptoms those with anxiety disorders have: persistent worry and tension, restlessness, an unrealistic view of problems, and so on. These seem to be directly tied to what those with perfectionism go through. I find this interesting.

Looking back on childhood again, I can remember striving to always get 1st place in coloring contests when I was six. I can remember in middle school wanting to be the best cheerleader with the highest scores, and when I didn’t get a high score, I would spend tremendous amounts of time figuring out WHY. In high school, I developed an eating disorder because I felt a need to be thin…..even if it meant only eating a bowl of cereal each day.

As an adult, it seems that perfectionism meshed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to create a nice mix of craziness. I used to think that perfectionism was having all of my pencils lined up or being bothered when a picture was crooked on the wall. But in reality, as an adult, I’ve turned it into a fixation on health. Believing that health is defined as an absence of physical symptoms, if I have physical symptoms, then I’m not in good health. Sure, I have anxiety about my children and my job too, but health takes the forefront.

So, the question is: how do you overcome perfectionism or anxiety? Do you focus on one first or both at the same time? Okay, so that’s two questions. Trying to overcome anxiety has been with me for many years. I use many ways to “manage” anxiety, but it is never truly gone. I don’t think it ever will be. Perhaps I need to change my focus then on working with eliminating my perfectionism instead. Or can it be eliminated? Is it something that is simply a part of my personality that has to be managed also?

Feel free to share any thoughts on this subject.

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