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The Dangers of Perfectionism

Thomas Curran's Talk on Perfectionism Reveals Dangerous Implications

— March 19, 2019 — Keynote Trends
Thomas Curran — a social and personality psychologist who is an assistant professor in the Department of Health at the University of Bath, delivers a talk on perfectionism that reveals some alarming statistics. The speaker's research points that people who strive to be perfect often "feel discontented and dissatisfied" and are more prone to experiencing things like "depression, anxiety, anorexia, bulimia, and even suicidal ideation." This is quite dangerous as perfectionism is rising with the changing society and it is not about perfecting tasks but "perfecting an imperfect self."

People are conditioned to fit between margins of success and failure from a young age through testing — students between pre-kindergarten and grade 12 are subject to approximately 112 mandatory standardized tests. Moreover, the understanding is there that we are "captains of our own destiny" and that hard work pays off which doesn't take into account the "ongoing economic tribunal " and other factors.

During his talk on perfectionism, Thomas Curran identifies modern society as one that "prays on [young people's] insecurities" and "amplifies their imperfections." There is an actual framework developed to measure this phenomenon in individuals. Created by Paul Hewitt and Gordon Flett, it identifies three types of perfectionism — the self-oriented, the socially prescribed, and the other-oriented. Thomas Curran's research points that all three kinds are on the rise in modern society, especially socially prescribed perfectionism, which "has the largest correlation with serious mental illness" and "breeds a profound sense of helplessness and [...] hopelessness."

Curran's talk on perfectionism, of course, outlines a way around the traps — one of them is "a little bit of self-compassion" and "going easy on ourselves when things don't go well." These are plausible things but warrant an extensive amount of work nonetheless.