A perfectionist is someone who doesn’t stop until everything is done correctly. Striving for perfection may not seem like a bad thing, but in reality, it’s unachievable — an endless loop that can keep you from working efficiently. It’s a condition that affects more women than men. Women are also more likely to exhibit self-criticism. So, what causes perfectionism to be so prevalent in women?
In one study, 33 percent of women in corporate workplaces had high levels of perfectionism compared to 21 percent of men. Why is this? The answer isn’t one single cause. It’s a multitude of issues that penetrate deep into the fabric of our society.
The Rise of Self-Doubt
Women are no strangers to self-doubt. We’re biologically predisposed to second-guessing our actions, over and over again, to the point of freezing up and missing out on goals. Studies show educated and hard-working women feel they don’t have a right to work at the top, and are afraid to answer questions, share ideas or ask for promotions. Many won’t jump at an opportunity until they are 100% sure they can predict the outcome.
If you’re a perfectionist, don’t sell yourself short. Hard work — both in and outside of the workplace — is often rewarded. You have to speak up, though. It’s normal to feel nervous, especially when asking for something — and in a business setting, you might be the only woman in the room. The key is to be confident in yourself and the work you’ve accomplished.
No Room for Errors
Women are very critical of themselves. This could be because, from a young age, we are taught to be as polite and respectful as possible. Stay calm or you’ll look hysterical. Dress right or you’ll be perceived the wrong way. These expectations have caused an endless loop of self-criticism that translates to perfectionism in all aspects of life.
Experts say women who are perfectionists lack tolerance for making mistakes. If you’re wondering what causes perfectionism, experts believe it could be tied to high levels of stress. To ease anxiety fast, go outside. Breathe in the fresh air and soak up plenty of natural sunlight. One study showed that even looking at pictures of nature, such as waterfalls or rock formations, can improve your mood.
The Role of Caregiver
It’s not uncommon for a woman to take on the role of caregiver — to her children, aging parents or incapacitated friends. She wears this new hat without compromising other aspects of her life, such as a career or family. However, juggling so many tasks at once can often lead to perfectionism, the urge that everything must get done, even when the to-do list is impossibly long.
Caretaking can be challenging work. Caregivers often experience burnout, a feeling as if they can’t bear the responsibility any longer. Don’t let yourself reach the point of no return. Instead, schedule regular vacations to alleviate stress and anxiety. Give your mind time to heal and remember that your health is just as important as your loved ones.
Body Image Awareness
As a woman, you may always be aware of your body — how it looks, what you’re wearing, if you’re taking up too much space. Society has been focused on body image for decades, plastering TVs, newspapers and billboards with half-naked women showcasing perfectly-toned bodies. In turn, many women believe that’s what we should strive for, even when impossible.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be fit and toned, and it’s completely normal to feel nervous when working out at the gym in front of other people. However, when your goals become unrealistic — like an unhealthy weight or muscle gain that requires steroids — you could be struggling with perfectionism. Plan a healthy diet and exercise regularly to lose weight and build muscle the right way.
What Causes Perfectionism in Women
Perfectionism is a complex condition that many women struggle with on a day-to-day basis. It’s a battle to be in control, whether over your career, body, family, future or more. This need for everything to be perfect can stem from many causes.
If you’re wondering what causes perfectionism, one of the most common sources is the critical expectations we have of ourselves. Self-doubt makes us review our work over and over, even when we have the skills and expertise to create high-quality outcomes. Society’s constant feedback loop — the critical analysis of what we should all be doing, saying and wearing — makes us question our own choices.
Cutting the negatives of perfectionism out of your life is no simple task, but it can be done if you focus on isolating the sources of stress, anxiety and uncertainty. Once you tackle these root causes, you can stop striving for perfection and find more enjoyment.