HOW ARE PERFECTIONISM AND ADHD CONNECTED?
Do you often find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, and become very sensitive to any form of feedback?
Are your standards incredibly high for yourself, your work, and the people around you?
Do you find yourself going over your work multiple times to check for errors?
Is it difficult for you to get started on your tasks, and find ways to avoid and procrastinate?
If any of these resonate with you, you may have perfectionism stemming from ADHD. There is a strong association between perfectionism and ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Perfectionism is highly related to anxiety, as it often is a way to avoid “punishment” for doing the wrong thing. Perfectionism and anxiety often go hand in hand, and perfectionism can often be a symptom of anxiety. Some studies have found that around 50% of adults with ADHD also suffer from anxiety.
Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her book, “Big Magic” that:
“Perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says again and again “I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.””
Perfectionism is another form of fear. Oftentimes, adults with ADHD feel the need to overcompensate for ADHD, to right past wrongs, or perhaps to prove their worthiness. Perfectionism with ADHD can often lead to procrastination, which is understood as a way to avoid emotional discomfort. To avoid failure and criticism, people with ADHD have trouble with putting things off and avoiding starting tasks.
3 TYPES OF PERFECTIONISM
Researchers have determined that there are three main types of perfectionism: self-oriented, socially prescribed, and other-oriented.
Self-oriented perfectionism presents itself as having unrealistic high standards for yourself and your work. Someone with self-oriented perfectionism often engages in negative self-talk and is very hard on themselves. The standards they have for themselves are unrealistically high, making these standards almost impossible to meet. Because of this, this type of perfectionism can often lead to other mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Socially Prescribed Perfectionism
Socially prescribed perfectionism comes from a belief that others are constantly judging and criticizing you. This fear of judgment can cause you to seek perfectionism for the fear of social rejection. Socially prescribed perfectionism can make you fearful of making mistakes and disappointing others. As a consequence of this, socially prescribed perfectionism often leads to intense social anxiety and low confidence.
If you find yourself having high expectations of the people around you, you may have other-oriented perfectionism. Other-oriented perfectionism places high expectations and criticism onto others. This need to judge or criticize the actions of other people can lead to difficulty in creating and maintaining relationships.
Strategies To Overcome Perfectionism As An ADHD Adult
Let’s face it, ADHD perfectionism can drain your energy, put a strain on your relationships, and make anxiety and depression symptoms worse. To overcome your perfectionist tendencies, consider the following strategies:
1. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is very helpful in regulating your emotional state. According to a study, mindfulness can help perfectionists recover from stress. Mindfulness can help ground you and shift your mental state away from negative self-talk. Starting a gratitude practice can also aid in disrupting negative cycles of thinking prevalent in a perfectionist’s mind. You can also try this mindful meditation with breathwork to get started.
2. Practice perspective by looking at the big picture
Perfectionism can keep you stuck in the details. Focusing too much on the details of any given task can completely consume and drain you. It is helpful to zoom out from any particular task to put it into perspective. At the end of the day, finishing a task is almost more important than complete perfection.
3. Avoid “shoulds”, all-or-nothing thinking, and catastrophic thinking
Perfectionists often think in terms of “should”– on how things should be and should look. Additionally, it is easy to fall into patterns of all-or-nothing thinking– thinking any task or chore should be done perfectly or not at all. Catastrophic thinking is also common, always thinking about the worst possible outcome if things are not perfect. Being aware of these negative thinking cycles and critical self-talk is essential to manage your perfectionism. Next time you find yourself thinking in shoulds, absolute terms, and catastrophizing normal situations- you can name them and move past them.
4. Ask for help
Perfectionism can often feel very isolating. All three perfectionist types can cause severe stress and put a strain on your work, personal, and family life. Being open about your struggles and asking for help from your loved ones is a great way to overcome some perfectionist tendencies. Those closest to us can often help us see if we are engaging in negative self-talk or catastrophizing, and can help us move past it. A coach can also work with you on strategies to overcome perfectionist tendencies- you can Book a Discovery Call with me today!
5. Set reasonable goals and celebrate your milestones
You can start to think about setting realistic goals by thinking about what can actually be accomplished in the amount of time you have. One way to do this is by setting SMART goals: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Setting realistic goals can help prevent unrealistic standards for any given task. Lastly, it is important to celebrate your milestones. When completing any task, acknowledge and celebrate it. Even if your brain tells you it is not 100% perfect, acknowledging the completion and celebrating it can help in cultivating grace for yourself and others.
Given the link between ADHD and perfectionism, it is important to continually work on strategies to work to mitigate it. Perfectionism can cause burnout and strain in your relationships. However, understanding the three types of perfectionism and how it can manifest can help you identify the strategies that can aid you in overcoming your perfectionist tendencies. For other tips on taming perfectionism, check out my article.