How to Cope with Perfectionism as a Student

by | Dec 17, 2022 | Anxiety, Counseling, Perfectionism, Stress, Teen therapy

How to Cope with Perfectionism as a Student

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Do you often find yourself not being able to move on from a task if it isn’t absolutely perfect? Or maybe you procrastinate projects altogether because the thought of it not turning out perfectly is too anxiety-inducing? If you can relate, you may be a perfectionist.

In some cases, perfectionism can be a barrier to actually getting things done. While in school, being a perfectionist can be a positive thing and a negative thing. In this blog,  we will discuss some of the dangers of perfectionism as a student and some tips for managing perfectionism.

The definition of perfectionism from a psychological viewpoint is, “The tendency to demand of others or of oneself an extremely high or even flawless level of performance, in excess of what is required by the situation. It is associated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health problems.” Students can often be their own worst critics when it comes to tackling assignments, daily tasks, etc. There is no such thing as someone or something being perfect, but we still try to meet this impossible goal. Eventually, striving for perfectionism leads us down a rabbit hole that has no end in sight. Being aware of the tendencies you possess that contribute to being a perfectionist is the first step toward creating better habits in your day-to-day life. Here are a few characteristics researchers have found perfectionists often have: 

– Rigid thinking

– Believing perfection is the only option

– “Model student” personalities

– Avoid taking risks

Now that we are aware of some of the characteristics perfectionists possess, let’s discuss some of the dangers of perfectionism. 

1. Procrastination

Putting off a task to avoid the overwhelming feeling of anxiety and needing it to be done perfectly can lead to extreme procrastination. Research has found that perfectionists who can’t adjust to their situation/environment are more likely to procrastinate. Not being able to adjust to a new environment can cause feelings of discomfort, uneasiness, and of course, imperfection. All of these negative feelings contribute to a perfectionist’s inability to begin their task.

2. Setting unrealistic standards

Perfectionists tend to set goals that can be very difficult to reach. This can cause them to overwork themselves while not ever feeling satisfied with what they did get completed. Researchers have stated, “Simply having high personal standards has been linked to suicidal ideation.” Overworking yourself physically can also be overworking yourself mentally. 

3. Triggers for Depression and Anxiety

Non-perfectionists are able to move on from tasks they struggled with fairly easier than perfectionists. Perfectionists tend to take it harder than others because they set higher expectations for themselves. The amount of rumination and overthinking created by these unmet expectations can trigger depression or anxiety. 


How to Manage Perfectionism:

  • Focus on the process, not the product.

Looking at the overall picture and end result of a project can be very overwhelming for perfectionists. Instead, try taking things step by step. This will help you slow down and process things as they come. This way, you are less likely to get overwhelmed to finish the task and put too much on your plate that you can’t handle.

  • Break up tasks into meetable goals.

Breaking up tasks into meetable goals goes hand-in-hand with focusing on the process and not the product. By breaking up your tasks, you are more likely to accomplish more than trying to tackle everything at once. Trying to meet every possible goal can be overwhelming and lead to procrastination, in which nothing gets done. Break up your tasks any way that works best for you, but a way lots of people do so is by using an agenda

  • View mistakes as learning opportunities. 

Perfectionists often believe there is no room for mistakes and can take things harder than others when they do mess up. Instead, try looking at a mistake as a way to grow. Ask yourself, “What can I do differently next time?” As humans, we are not always going to be perfect and we need to make mistakes to learn the next time. If we never make mistakes there will never be room for growth! To learn more about this new way of thinking, check out this book on perfectionism. 

Being aware of the characteristics possessed by perfectionists that contribute to negative coping skills makes you one step closer to practicing better habits and controlling your perfectionism. If you or someone you know is struggling with perfectionism and looking for a therapist in the Atlanta area, Sage Counseling and Wellness is here to offer those services!

To discuss how therapy could help you during this season of your life, please contact me or schedule your free 15 minute consultation.

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