Nobody’s perfect. We all know that. But do we really? While most people understand that striving for perfection is a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment, many still hold themselves to the standard of perfection whether they recognize it or not.
Today, in our age of social media influencers, massive celebrity reach, and symbols of perfection around every street corner, more and more people are developing negative self-images as a result of their perceived imperfections. It’s impossible to be perfect. Remind yourself of that every day. Instead of striving to be perfect, strive to love yourself just as you are.
However, if you’re one of those people who has an undying fear of not living up to that standard of perfection, you should know that there’s actually a name for that fear: atelophobia.
Of course, almost everyone experiences atelophobia to some degree. No one wants to fail, to not live up to the standards that they set for themselves, or to be perceived as a failure by the people around them. So, if you think you fit into the category of atelophobia, you should know that you certainly aren’t alone.
In fact, I’m experiencing some atelophobia at this very moment as I worry about these introductory paragraphs not being up to snuff. However, for some people, this fear of imperfection can turn into a debilitating phobia, causing them to put off doing things at all for fear of not doing them perfectly.
Once again, it’s important to practice self-love and accept your flaws and imperfections and learn to love those as well. No, it’s not an easy journey to transition from a life of atelophobia to a life of self-love and self-acceptance; however, with practice and consistent management, you can learn to accept your imperfections and start leading a happier life.
Let’s take a look at what exactly atelophobia is and what you can do to help yourself manage if you find yourself afflicted by this phobia. And remember: if you think you have atelophobia, forgive yourself and accept it. Don’t consider your atelophobia as just one more imperfection or reason for self-loathing.
What Is a Phobia?
Harvard Health says, “A phobia is a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation. It is a type of anxiety disorder. A person with a phobia either tries to avoid the thing that triggers the fear, or endures it with great anxiety and distress.” While everyone experiences some sort of fear in their lives, the thing that separates a phobia from a normal fear is the fact that the object of the phobia is often not even real.
If you’re standing in front of a hungry lion, that’s a real threat. If you feel fear in that scenario, it doesn’t mean that you have a phobia of lions. It means you have a very rational fear of the lion who seems intent on eating you.
For it to be a phobia, the threat (or object of fear) should be almost entirely in the person’s mind. For instance, if you have a fear of imperfection, you may have delusions that everyone around you expects perfection, which is far from the truth.
As with any phobia, people who have atelophobia will avoid the object of their fear, which, in this case, is doing something imperfectly. As a result, people with this specific phobia will often choose to do nothing at all rather than do something with the chance of not living up to their perfect standard. It’s a form of risk aversion: people with atelophobia would rather not risk failure, so they avoid trying things altogether.
What Are the Symptoms of Atelophobia?
In a psychological sense, people with atelophobia have an extreme tendency towards perfectionism. This can often lead to constant judgment and negative feelings about themselves. These feelings of insufficiency can become all-encompassing and overwhelming, manifesting in every aspect of a person’s life. This is when atelophobia becomes especially crippling and medical attention is absolutely necessary.
In addition to the psychological symptoms of atelophobia, there are also some psychosomatic symptoms (physical problems that stem from mental causes) as well. These can include hyperventilation, muscle tension, headaches, and stomach pain. Essentially, all of these physical symptoms result from the constant anxiety that living with atelophobia causes.
What Are the Causes of Atelophobia?
Studies have shown that can be biological, meaning that it can be passed down genetically from your parents. And while many people aren’t born with full-on atelophobia, you may be more genetically predisposed towards focusing on achievement, perfectionism, or insecurity.
In addition to biological factors that underlie atelophobia, this phobia may also be related to a traumatic experience in your life. Perhaps you had a terrible experience in your past that made you feel extremely imperfect or insufficient. Well, that experience may have instilled in you a fear of ever feeling like a failure again, and so you’ll do anything (or not do anything) to avoid having that feeling again.
What exactly creates atelophobia in people is not entirely clear and it’s often a combination of several factors that culminate in one crippling fear. But identifying the specific root causes that resulted in your specific phobia is an important step in getting over your fear.
How Can You Manage Atelophobia?
If you’re at a point that your phobia is keeping you from experiencing life, from socializing with other people, or from bettering yourself, then you should seek the help of a mental health professional. Often, atelophobia is treated with psychotherapy, medication, and some lifestyle adjustments. Like with other phobias, the route out of atelophobia is cognitive restructuring, which can take a long time and include hours of therapy. It’s not easy to get over a phobia, but it can be done with determination and the right assistance.
If you want to get yourself started even before you seek professional help, there are some ways that you can begin to retrain your brain and get over your phobia. Here are some quick tips to help you out:
- First of all, you should make a conscious effort to lower your standards. Try to anticipate your failures and mentally prepare yourself to forgive yourself when they happen. Understand that accomplishing things often involves many little failures, and it also often requires a lot of time. Try to be resilient and move past the little failures. Keep your eyes on the big picture.
- Don’t think of everything as all-or-nothing. Instead, try to break up large tasks into smaller tasks. Make things bite-sized. For example, if you have to create a website, try breaking it down into smaller tasks, and focus only on one task at a time.
- Track your time. We often tend to overestimate the amount of time something is going to take when we perceive it as a large or looming task. Oftentimes these kinds of tasks can actually be a lot easier than we thought they’d be, and tracking your time and recognizing this can make it easier to begin tasks in the future.
- Reward yourself. This is a method that teachers and parents often use with their kids, but it can be a powerful tool for adults as well. Whenever you complete one of your small tasks, give yourself some sort of reward. Positive reinforcement can make people more willing to begin tasks in the first place.
- On the topic of positive reinforcement, surround yourself with people that are going to support you and provide you with positivity. This kind of support system can help you get more confident and will encourage you to get out into the world and be active.
With a concerted effort and some support from friends, family, and medical professionals, anyone can overcome their atelophobia and start accepting their imperfections. It’s a long, hard road, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.