Perfectionism: aka The Art of Avoiding Shame


Naomi Kyei-Asare, Staff Writer

Perfectionism: the art of avoiding failure; avoiding shame; an internal defense mechanism against externally driven shame; a state of mind fueled by the question of ¨What will people think?¨ 

It is easy to fall into a perfectionist state of mind, especially in today’s world where people constantly feel the need to share their opinion on other people’s looks and behaviors. This is especially true in high school where pressure and judgment are rampant. All of this pressure leads to self-doubt and can take a toll on a person. One way that some people look to combat this pressure is to strive for perfection. The thinking on this is that if you scrutinize yourself enough and ensure that you look ¨perfect¨ others won’t have something to say to make you feel ashamed or like you’re not good enough. However, this thinking is very toxic to your well being and self-image.

In Karen Beattie’s article on author and popular TED Talk contributor Brené Brown, Ph.D., she presents some of the key areas Brown focuses on regarding the destructiveness of perfectionism. According to Beattie, Brown states, “Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgment, and shame.¨ 

Brown’s point here is that in seeking perfectionism, people end up crushing themselves with an unattainable goal. Those who seek perfection in themselves are, ultimately, editing the image of themselves in order to satisfy the perceptions of others and adjusting to those people’s beliefs rather than their own internal motivation

However, overcoming the perfectionist mindset is not a simple one-and-done thing. It first takes work from you. You have to dive into how being a perfectionist and a high achiever are not at all the same thing. You have to understand that if you scrutinize yourself enough you’ll make yourself into a you the world will never be able to judge or shame. That type of self-criticism is toxic and will ultimately lead to your downfall. 

High achievers primarily focus on themselves, not others. Yes, they strive for excellence, but one key thing they are able to do is learn from their mistakes and achievements. However, not without being able to also accept their current state of being without constant harsh judgements. 

After this first step it becomes all about the daily practice of identifying the perfectionist tendencies that drain one’s energy and self-esteem. Once you are able to do this you will find yourself feeling more motivated to work towards ridding yourself of these tendencies in the future. 

You can engage in daily reflections in journaling where you identify when you feel your perfectionist moments hurt you most throughout the day and your feelings about it to again help you become more aware of these harmful thoughts when they occur in the future. Lastly, alter the way you speak to yourself, especially in your head. Taking little steps to acknowledge how proud of yourself you are, how you’re doing your best, and how important you are to yourself can really alter the way you see the part of yourself that makes you feel like you need to crush yourself with all of this self-judgment.