Addicted to Perfection

While often praised, an overwhelming need to achieve can create imbalance, and eventually complete mental break downs.

“Work hard, but not too hard,” my dad always says when I return to school after an all-too-brief break.

I’ve spent my academic career trying—and failing—to find that balance.

Despite a recent societal push toward things like relaxation and mental health, I think most people still want to succeed at all costs. Hanna McCabe-Bennett, a doctoral psychology student at Ryerson University in Canada, says most aspects of today’s culture tend to be polarized. We now emphasize self-care, even while demanding achievement and expecting people to go above and beyond what they’re assigned.

Working too hard is when productivity becomes an addiction, McCabe-Bennett says. Some people, like me, might devote more time to things like getting good grades than to other parts of life that provide meaning and balance.

That dependence is tough to break. Unlike some other addictions, workaholism and perfectionism receive praise and reinforcement from other people. Losing these rewards can be scary for those wanting to escape the addiction.

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