Perfectionism Can Be Bad For Your Health
New research published at the end of last month by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology has discovered a strong link between Perfectionism and stress and burnout in the workplace.
In the past two decades, 43 separate studies have looked into how perfectionists cope both at home and at work, and the potential health impacts. This meta-analysis of all 43 shows there are different types of perfectionist behaviour that can have positive and negative effects.
The study looked at what psychologists call “Perfectionist Concerns”. This is where people worry constantly about making mistakes, measuring up to very high standards and fearing that they will let others down if they don’t. What tends to happen is that these concerns make people hold on to negative attitudes, doubts and fears about their own performance, which can lead to stress and eventually burnout. This in turn leads to negative reinforcement every time a mistake is made, as it is viewed as a major setback leading to a loss of engagement, increased cynicism and a lack of effort and care. Studies have shown that this can lead to greater strain on personal relationships, increases fatigue, anxiety, depression and even early death in the long term.
The impact of Perfectionist Concerns is particularly acute in the workplace, according to the researchers. Burnout comes about more quickly due to perfectionism at work because, unlike education and sport, there are fewer support networks or clear goals that can be attained. At school, an A grade can delay Perfectionist concern, as can winning an important tournament in sport. At work, success is a lot less defined.
Although Perfectionism definitely has a negative impact, there are also circumstances where it can be useful as in education and sport. This is called “Perfectionist Striving” where people set themselves high personal goals and proactively seek them out. When these aims are kept, the accomplishment in trying to attain them, delays negative health issues such as burnout, according to the researchers.