The Toxic Nature of Perfectionism

Srinivas Rao
2 min readMay 13, 2023

Are you a perfectionist? Do you feel like you constantly fall short of your own high expectations? You’re not alone. In a recent interview, Dr. Will Storr discussed the toxic nature of perfectionism and how it’s affecting our mental health.

The Evolutionary Drive for Status

According to Dr. Storr, humans are driven by a Darwinian desire to get ahead of others and be accepted into groups. While cooperation is key to our survival as a species, status competition is still a factor. In ancient times, having higher status meant better access to food, shelter, and partners. Today, our culture has set an unusually high marker for success, presenting us with perfect selves on TV and social media. If we don’t measure up, we’re made to feel like failures.

The Toll on Mental Health

This pressure to be perfect is taking a toll on our mental health. Dr. Storr points out that levels of perfectionism are rising significantly, and that people are thinking more and more that they have to be perfect in order to be accepted as human beings. But this is a false belief. We need to redefine success and stop blaming ourselves for not being perfect.

Overcoming Perfectionism

One way to break the cycle of perfectionism is through self-compassion. Instead of being hard on ourselves when we fall short, we can practice kindness and understanding towards ourselves. This means acknowledging that we’re only human and that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. By being gentle with ourselves, we can build resilience and move forward in a positive direction.

Another way to combat perfectionism is by focusing on progress instead of perfection. Dr. Storr suggests setting goals that are challenging but achievable, and celebrating small victories along the way. By acknowledging our progress, we can build confidence and motivation to keep going.

Redefining Success

In conclusion, perfectionism is a toxic mindset that can have negative effects on our mental health. It’s important to recognize that nobody is perfect, and that striving for perfection is a never-ending cycle. Instead, we should focus on self-compassion and progress as a way to build resilience and achieve our goals. Let’s rewrite the narrative around success and redefine what it means to be a successful human being.

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Srinivas Rao

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