The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

Stress Management & Self Care

May 14, 2021

Psychotherapist Sharon Martin shared her expertise on the intersection between stress and perfectionism in the final talk of the Planned Acts of Kindness Mental Health speaker series on Thursday, April 29. Her presentation, called “Taming Perfectionism and How to be Kinder to Yourself,” focused on the self-inflicted stress students experience throughout high school and beyond.

Martin began by defining perfectionism as setting high standards, and seeing mistakes and flaws as defining traits. She highlighted several techniques, such as normalizing mistakes, and challenged individuals to see failure as an opportunity for growth rather than letting it define them.

Martin urged individuals to notice how they treat themselves, practice affirmations, identify double standards and subconscious negative thinking and replace them with realistic and self-accepting thoughts. Statements like “My worth isn’t based on my achievements” and “I value learning more than being right” can make students aware of their strengths, she said.  

Choosing growth over perfection and tolerating the discomfort of mistakes is a key aspect of taming perfectionism, according to Martin. In a school setting, she encourages students to impose time limits  for completing assignments so that they do not get caught up in it and meet realistic expectations without additional stress. 

Martin cited a 2018 meta-analysis of 95 studies on perfectionism, concluding that perfectionism was consistently correlated with higher stress levels and did not lead to higher performance levels. Ultimately, she explained that perfectionism can lead to detrimental effects such as burnout, stress-related health problems and negative impacts on one’s relationship with oneself and others. This includes choosing work over fun, deprioritizing relationships, lack of fulfillment and diminishing self worth.

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