“Perfectionism develops as a way to cope with that defective sense of self and a sense of not fitting in with others, not fitting in with the world, not having a place in the world,”
An article from Thrive Global about how dangerous perfectionism is to our health, happiness and connection with others.
About two decades ago, a woman knocked on the door of Paul Hewitt, a clinical psychologist based in Vancouver, Canada. Outwardly, Anita — the pseudonym given in Hewitt’s new book — had everything meticulously together: she told her therapist of an idyllic childhood, the supportive family she came from, the daughter she felt close to, her broad network of friends. But the loss of her mom, who was her closest friend and confidant, was a big blow to her; it had happened ten years earlier, and it was a continued source of hurt and anger. More recently, she’d injured her shoulder, forcing her out of her career in food science. However successful she appeared, she was actually suicidal and depressed.
She had tried many treatments to deal with her depression and thoughts of suicide, but none worked; she used the “runner’s high” from long distance swimming as a way to cope with her loss, though the shoulder injury ended that. Few people in her life knew the depth of her pain. She had come to Hewitt because he’d heard an interview with the University of British Columbia psychologist where he talked about the links between depression, suicide, and perfectionism.
“She was one of the most suicidal people I’ve ever worked with,” he tells Thrive Global. Anita’s transformation serves as the central case study in the new book Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment, co-authored by Hewitt’s frequent collaborator Gordon Flett, of York University, and the private clinical psychologist Samuel F. Mikail.
Over the past three decades, these researchers have found that far from being a quirk of high-achievers, an innocent humblebrag you give to job interviewers when they ask you what your greatest weakness is (“I’m sometimes a perfectionist”)—this way of approaching life creates or amplifies all sorts of mental health issues. It also signals a problematic relationship with the self. “It’s not a way of thinking,” Hewitt says. “It’s a way of being in the world.” Continue reading
I just finished re-watching the sixth episode of the first season of the original Star Trek (if you count the pilot.) It does a fair job of illustrating the basics regarding the dangers of non-acceptance and non-integration of the shadow-self with the persona. These are terms Carl Jung used largely to replace Freud’s terms, “conscious” and “subconscious.” (The persona being the self we tend to show the world- often our “best” attributes- while the shadow-self is largely unconscious and comprised of aspects of ourselves that society, culture or family have told us are “bad.”) If explored, accepted and integrated the shadow-self provides us with much of our creative energy and power. In this particular episode, an alter ego of Kirk is sent back with the original Kirk to the SS Enterprise when the transporter malfunctions. Continue reading
For many years I have been speaking to the increasing shift in traditional gender roles and the ways in which this shift is altering the power differential between the sexes. In my practice, I see these changes manifest in a variety of new and interesting ways, both adaptive and maladaptive. My work is primarily with men and this latest New York Times article gives a comprehensive overview of the very real and immediate need to foster and accept emotional vulnerability in men for the sake of their health and success.
“Last semester, a student in the masculinity course I teach showed a video clip she had found online of a toddler getting what appeared to be his first vaccinations. Off camera, we hear his father’s voice. “I’ll hold your hand, O.K.?” Then, as his son becomes increasingly agitated: “Don’t cry!… Aw, big boy! High five, high five! Say you’re a man: “I’m a man!”
From a recent episode of Fresh Air: “While researching the book Cure, science writer Jo Marchant wanted to understand how distraction could be used to nullify pain, so she participated in a virtual reality experiment.” Continue reading
Our lives and careers are filled with examples of inauthentic behavior. We feign interest in meetings or laugh at our boss’s bad jokes in order to be positive team members, build relationships, and accomplish shared goals. This is how we get along—and it is how some of us get ahead.
“A recent study links extended work availability with decreased calmness, mood, and energy levels. By looking at industries from technical services to nursing, the study evaluated the effects of being on-call — that is, not at work, but being expected to remain available by phone for questions or customer requests. Continue reading
Procrastination is a topic that comes up often in my practice. Successful professionals well-versed in time management and theories of organization come in searching for answers and strategies to address delayed action in some key areas of their lives. Continue reading
The Stability Network is a coalition of successful professionals who live, or have lived, with mental health conditions. Continue reading