Perfectionism and Negative Thinking
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Does everything have to be in a certain order? Does everything have to be perfect? If you answered yes to both of these questions, maybe you are a control freak or perfectionist. Psychologists will tell you that when you look things in ‘black and white’ than you have one of many symptoms of negative thinking. They refer to people who show signs of ‘black or white thinking’ are polarizing. Polarizing can negatively affect your self-esteem (2015). You will eventually find yourself saying things like, ‘If I don’t get a good grades, than I will not get into a good college’.
There are many articles on the internet that describe different types of negative thinking. Enter the phrase, negative thinking, in your search engine, and you will get many articles from types of negative thinking to types of therapy for this pattern. Various articles will show 10 to 15 different types of negative thinking. But, the average person will never think of perfectionism as a sign of negative thinking.
How is perfectionism related to negative thinking?
That is a good question with a simple answer. The answer is low self-esteem. People who have low self-esteem may tend to have the need to control every aspect of their life as a way of hiding negative feelings about themselves (2013). For example, a manager that likes to micro-mange his or her employees. This is may be a sign that the manager feels inadequate about something. Sometimes the manager doesn’t want to let anyone else know that they feel intimidated by other co-workers, and they don’t want anyone to know that they feel inadequate about their abilities. Jerry Kennard’s article, Control Freaks Exposed, explains why perfectionists suffer from low self-esteem.
How To Be A Functioning Perfectionist
1. Recognize alternative solutions. People who are perfectionists rarely see other ways to solve problems. Remember the phrase, ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’? The phrase is true. Perfectionists feel that if they make a mistake that it is the end of the world. A perfect example is case management: My first job was as a case manager determining eligibility for government assistance programs. My job consisted of completing cases by following instructions from program manuals. I freaked out when I got my first case that where I couldn’t use the policy manual to find a direct answer. I had to adapt to the situation and use the best information possible, despite the instructions in the policy manual. The most ambiguous answer is sometime the best answer.
2. Don’t Panic. The worst thing you can do when make a mistake is panic. One, you can make the situation worse. Two, you can make irrational decisions. Sometimes the best policy is to be honest about your mistake and take responsibly for your mistake. You are only human. Acknowledging your mistakes can be a way to learn how to think logically about the situation. One, you can identify the problem. Two, identify what cause the problem. Lastly, learn how to find ways to prevent the problem from happening again. But, the best way to cope with mistakes is to develop a coping mechanism. My coping mechanism is my faith. Religion and Psychology are two different subjects, but remembering the teachings of Jesus Christ helps me deal with “sticky situations’.
A coping mechanism may include an example such as placing your favorite phrase or slogan in your office or your home. One phrase I created when I worked for a terrible boss was ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’, and ‘this is only part of the bigger picture’. Or, you can always count to ten. It sounds crazy, but it works for most people. A good source is Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance’s article, Saying NO to Negative Thinking Worksheet. The bottom of the article has an effective worksheet that will help your cope with negative thinking (See references at bottom).
3. Learn to let it go. You can’t control everything, even if it is wrong. Sometimes the best way to handle a problem is to let it go, and not letting is fester. An inability to cope with situations can lead to other health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. In other words, learn how to pick your battles. I have learned that you can’t make everyone see things your way, and that your way isn’t always the best way.
- Heather Browning, MBA
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Saying No to Negative Thinking Worksheet. Retrieved January 15, 2015. Kennard, J. (2013, August 23). Control Freaks Exposed. Retrieved January 15, 2015.