Dear Dr Gray,
I think I am a perfectionist. Everything I do I feel I have to do perfectly yet despite putting what feels like 110% into everything I am never satisfied with anything and still constantly feel like a failure. I feel pretty depressed about this as it seems like there is no way to improve the situation as the harder I try at things the worse I seem to feel. The pressure is really getting to me and I have been signed off work with stress.
Stephen – Islington
Dr Gray Replies……..
Striving for perfection is often the way that we deal with feeling of low self esteem and worth. We push extra hard because we believe that we need to compensate for our perceived inadequacies. In the short term setting ourselves such unrelentingly high standard can focus us, giving us a sense of purpose which distracts us from self doubt and self criticism. However, human beings are not perfect and so in striving to be so you are only setting yourself up to fail, even if for a short time you are able to get within sight of the extremely high standard that you set yourself, it will never be enough to relieve your sense of inadequacy and over the longer term such harsh treatment of yourself is punitive and exhausting. This path will inevitably lead to both stress and depression. The answer is to resolve the source of the problem, the reason that you need to push yourself to be perfect. This can most effectively be addressed by a course of therapy which will help you to identify the perceived inadequacies that you feel you need to compensate for and evaluate their accuracy and helpfulness, hopefully replacing them with a more accurate sense of worth and elevated self esteem thus relieving the stress you are placing yourself under, lifting your mood and enabling you to rebalance your life and commitments.
The British CBT & Counselling Centre have recently opened a centre for therapy in Islington so you should be able to get some help from a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist locally..