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It’s natural to feel like you are not doing anything right every now and then; we humans are imperfect creatures, after all. Although this feeling of inadequacy is fleeting and infrequent for the most part, some people are highly afraid of being imperfect to the point that it endangers their ability to live their lives. Read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of atelophobia and the best ways to treat and cope with it.
What is Atelophobia?
Atelophobia is a psychological term that refers to the fear of imperfection or the fear of not being good enough. People who experience atelophobia often harbour intense anxiety and self-doubt about their abilities, accomplishments, or appearance. This fear can manifest in various aspects of their lives, leading to a constant drive for perfection, fear of failure, and avoidance of situations where they might not meet their own or others’ expectations.
What Causes Atelophobia and How To Know If You Have It
Several potential causes of atelophobia include upbringing, trauma, toxic situations, and genetic factors. Growing up with perfectionist parents or guardians who withdraw their love and approval when experiencing failure is one of the most common factors that induce atelophobia. This type of upbringing could also be tied to experiencing trauma from making such mistakes, but not always.
There is also the possibility that the fear of messing up only shows up when you are around certain people or in certain situations. In this case, you may just be in a toxic situation and not have atelophobia. Lastly, genetics could also play a role in developing this fear as research has shown a person is more likely to have it if they have a relative who has it too.
Atelophobia is typically associated with characteristics like:
- Setting unrealistic goals
You may set objectively unattainable or unrealistically high expectations for yourself, as anything else feels unacceptable.
- Exhibiting harsh judgement towards oneself
This means being overly critical of yourself for failing to attain said goals.
- Unreceptive to feedback
You may be intolerant towards even the slightest criticism, even if it is constructive, since you perceive it as more of an attack that emphasises your flaws.
- Steering clear of situations that upset you
Avoidance of anything beyond one’s comfort zone may occur due to the fear of not immediately being perfect in them. And if such situations are unavoidable, distress or panic may arise and cause physical symptoms such as nausea, trembling, dizziness, shortness of breath, and elevated heart rate.
- Poring over past mistakes
You may find yourself constantly going over the things you did wrong before and upsetting yourself over situations long past.
Overall, since atelophobia can cause a person to put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect, it can have adverse effects on their self-esteem and get in their way of attaining personal satisfaction, heightening the risk of anxiety disorders, depression, and even suicide.
Perfectionism vs Atelophobia
As a type of anxiety disorder, atelophobia is a mental disorder classified as a specific phobia or a severe and irrational fear over something that does not pose a tangible threat. Because of this fear of being imperfect, many tend to associate atelophobia as being similar to perfectionism. And while the two share some similarities, they are not exactly one and the same.
Perfectionism is a personality trait driven by the search for excellence and flawlessness. At the same time, atelophobia is a mental health condition associated with the debilitating fear of imperfection or making mistakes. This dread generally leads to emotional and physical symptoms that can interfere with day-to-day functioning, while perfectionism is not as severe or all-consuming.
Tips for Coping With Atelophobia
There are many ways to cope with atelophobia, namely:
1. Get used to messing up
Get used to the idea that there is nothing wrong with making a mistake by allowing yourself to purposefully fail at something small that bears no consequences and work your way up from there.
2. Learn how to recognise and leave toxic situations
If your atelophobia only appears in toxic situations, the best coping strategy is to try to find a way out of it.
3. Learning how to stay calm
Whether exercising, listening to your favourite tunes, or practising mindfulness and meditation, there are many ways to tolerate your imperfections and soothe your perfectionist urges.
4. Building a support system
Having a support system of loved ones that you can confide in and count on to give you emotional support unconditionally is among the best ways to overcome atelophobia.
Once properly diagnosed by a mental health professional, you may be prescribed to undergo various types of therapy, the two most popular of which are exposure therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Exposure therapy is a tried and true method of treating phobias that works by carefully exposing the individual to their fears until they are no longer afraid of them. Thus, a therapist or professional counsellor in Singapore can help you acclimate to, discuss, and accept that you will make mistakes occasionally.
Meanwhile, CBT corrects problematic thought processes that contribute to atelophobia and shifts the mindset to become more positive. For example, instead of thinking that you will no longer be loved should you fail a certain task, you believe you deserve love and that your value does not depend on superficial matters.
If left unchecked, atelophobia can get out of control, resulting in frequent problems with work and relationships and bringing a lot of mental anguish. If you find yourself exhibiting telltale signs of atelophobia, it is best to seek help as soon as possible.
A Space Between is committed to helping you connect with the right therapist that can help you overcome the obstacles in your life, be it personal issues like phobias or familial matters that require family therapy sessions in Singapore. Not only that, but we also provide safe spaces conducive to focused and effective sessions for everyone. For more information, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] or call (65) 8233 3832.
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