Are you aware of the long term effects caused by perfectionism?
Perfectionism can have serious implications on a young persons health, with links to anxiety and depression. The health and happiness of young women is a growing concern. A NHS study found 28.2% of 16 to 24 year olds have a mental health condition, with a quarter of those experiencing anxiety, depression, panic disorder, phobia or OCD.
Another study by Hamachek in 1978 found that there are typically two different types of perfectionism: normal and neurotic. The normal perfectionist strives for high standards but doesn’t let it affect his happiness and is satisfied in his pursuit. However, the neurotic perfectionist is miserable – his happiness is linked directly to the achievement, or non-achievement, of impossible goals. Because of this, he often falls prey to obsessive tinkering and procrastination.
Unfortunately, due to the increasing influence of social media on our lives in recent years, perfectionism is becoming more common for children and young adults. Charity NSPCC claimed that social media is leading to “seriously unhappy” children, with a staggering 18,788 individuals having been hospitalised for self-harm in the past year alone. Shannon was one of these individuals who had to deal with the long-term effects of perfectionism for many years and she wants to share her experience with our readers here at Picture Perfect.
Please read with caution.
“Look!”, exclaims Shannon, a 15-year-old student from Southampton, whilst scrolling through her Instagram feed. “See – pretty girls with pretty make-up, pretty clothes, pretty bags and pretty boyfriends. They look like they’re living the perfect life.”
With social media, teenagers are able to alter their lives and portray themselves in a more positive light, illustrating only their best and most enviable moments while concealing efforts, struggles, and the merely ordinary aspects of day-to-day life.
“It all began when I reached year 8. Instagram became the new craze at school; if you didn’t have it, you were a loser. Everyone was on it all the time: at break, lunch and even in lessons! The more likes you had on a photo, the more popular you were. But it was hard to keep up. After a while it felt like a competition, with more and more of my friends using Instagram to show off their possessions and boost their egos. It wasn’t long before I fell into the trap myself.
I would find myself constantly looking for things to take photos of to show my friends on Instagram what I was doing and new items I had purchased. I’d take hundreds of selfies of myself, then spend hours on end picking out the best to digitally enhance because I was so unhappy with my appearance and wanted to avoid criticism of the ‘real me’ online. I wanted to be like Tammy Hembrow – a beautiful ‘Insta famous’ model with 5 million followers. Everyone loves her and the perfect life that she leads. I thought to myself, “what would the harm be in editing a few photos of myself to look more like my idol?” and thats when the obsession begun.
I no longer felt comfortable in my own skin, with every retouched photo becoming more and more normal. I wanted my best possible appearance to be shown to the world, even if it was a fake one. I watched photo manipulation tutorials online, learning how to completely transform my makeup and drastically alter my body shape. In school, I was just a regular, plain, spotty teenage girl but online I had flawless skin, amazing makeup and weighed 10lbs lighter. Only when I obtained this ‘perfect’ fake image was I ever really, truly happy.
However one day it went too far. The pressures of social media, bullying and the pressure to look perfect online combined with exam pressures made my life unmanageable. I felt so compelled to change myself online that I no longer felt normal or accepted in real life. I developed bulimia as a result of wanting to be “perfectly” underweight. I turned my academic perfectionism to my diet, controlling every aspect of my daily food intake to manipulate my body shape in the same way that I would aim for the perfect A grade. It took control of my whole life.
Luckily, one day whilst in the midst of forcing myself to vomit, my mother found me and stopped what I was doing immediately. It was only after she had found me that the consequences of my actions were made clear – I didn’t the realise the damage I had done not only to myself, but to my family for them to find me in such a bad way. It was a long, dark road back to recovery but with the help of my family and friends I was able to reach a point where I truly loved myself. My advice for those out there who are in similar positions is to never give in and stick by your loved ones. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and you never know what is around the corner. Do not ever doubt yourself.”
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Speak to you soon!