Ayla is 21-years-old and is studying Screenwriting and Film Studies. Her favourite poet is Sylvia Plath. Ayla decided to get involved with Student Life to share her thoughts in the hope that they will inspire others.
Every summer, I like to read The Bell Jar. In it there’s a line that goes, “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest”. Here Plath summarises how it feels to have anxiety and perfectionistic tendencies, but highlights the dangers of it too.
Anxiety and perfectionism go hand-in-hand. Imagine your mind going at one thousand miles an hour all hours of the day. Couple that with a goal you need to reach. The goal is so important that it needs to be flawless. You know you should stop, but your mind won’t let you. All you do is keep going and going until you’re exhausted. You become frustrated because the goal isn’t how you imagined it would turn out. You tell yourself that you’ll push further next time, but you already tried your best. It becomes a vicious cycle; you can see why anxiety and perfectionism can be dangerous.
Anxiety and perfectionism can cause both mental and physical ailments. Not only can it cause mental burn-outs but symptoms such as; neck strain, back ache, even high-blood pressure and migraines. So, while we should never tell someone with anxiety to just stop worrying, what can we do to protect someone from causing greater harm to themselves?
The first point of call is support, ideally from a professional. A professional can help the individual find strategies to manage their anxiety and perfectionism. These strategies can be put into practise. Methods such as CBT can be used to help the individual recognise the dangers of their perfectionist tendencies, but also the positives that can come out of it and how they can build on this. As a friend, you can help someone who wants to manage their anxiety and perfectionism by helping them set goals. These can start off small, and then get bigger. Achieving them together can be a great way to connect and learn about each other.