Advertisement

Social Anxiety: Imperfect is the New Perfect

Social Anxiety: Imperfect is the New Perfect

Suma Chand, PhD

headshot

Suma Chand, PhD, is a Professor and Director of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, St Louis University School of Medicine.  She is involved in the training of Psychiatry residents and fellows in CBT and as a SLUCare Provider runs CBT clinics for adults and older adults offering individual and group CBT. Dr. Chand's clinical and research interests are in the areas of CBT for adults and older adults with anxiety and depressive disorders, sleep related problems and maladaptive perfectionism. She also writes blog posts on mental health topics. Dr. Chand is a member of the  Public Education Committee of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and serves on the Board of Directors for the National Social Anxiety Center.

Social Anxiety: Imperfect is the New Perfect

Share
No

Reviewed October 2020

The biggest fear of individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is that of being found to be deficient and judged for the deficiency.

What can one do to escape judgment? The best solution would be to avoid people. Another solution that is often used is that of being as correct and perfect as possible so that no deficiency is evident.  While this sounds like a fool proof plan, it is not easy to be so perfect that no judgment comes one’s way. Despite it not being the best solution, fear of negative judgment typically drives individuals with social anxiety towards this fear fueled option of perfectionism.    

When does Perfectionism become Maladaptive?

Adaptive perfectionism has been defined as striving for reasonable and realistic standards. Socially this would mean that one follows the rules of conduct and adapts to different social situations in a flexible manner without being too concerned about minor slip ups.

In maladaptive perfectionism there is a tendency to strive for excessively high standards which is motivated by fear of failure. Socially this would mean that rules of conduct are applied in a very rigid manner which is driven by fear of being judged. As a result social interactions become very stressful. Higher the distress the greater the indication that maladaptive perfectionism is playing a role.

The Costs of Maladaptive Perfectionism

Imagine facing the stress of going on a first date and then also having to ensure that you meet very high standards to ensure that nothing about you could be judged whether it is your weight, appearance, grooming, quality of your conversation, etc. Trying to be perfect in this manner is exhausting and also makes one feel tense and anxious.

When one is trying to be perfect, the tendency to be hyper vigilant of one’s errors increases. The focus on one’s imperfections can cause them to seem much worse than they really are. It will not allow one to get absorbed or enjoy conversations.

The process of self-monitoring to ensure high standards results in conversations that lack spontaneity. People who experience social anxiety are usually trapped in a situation where they want to have closer connections but all that they do to make sure it happens tends to actually prevent it from happening. Their maladaptive perfectionism inhibits them from being themselves which hinders authentic connections that lead to belonging and acceptance.

What people with Social Anxiety are often not too cognizant of is the fact that everyone has deficiencies. They do not really see others as flawed and human as they are. They make unfair comparisons and their thinking is often distorted.

Journey from Maladaptive to Adaptive

It is clear that maladaptive perfectionism has several costs. Reducing high standards of perfectionism can be scary but if done in gradual stages the costs of the unhealthy perfectionism will diminish and you will gain the freedom to be yourself.   

Seeking the help of a professional would be good since you will have an ally and an expert in your corner who will guide and cheer you on. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been extensively researched and established as an effective treatment for social anxiety. Seeking treatment for social anxiety with CBT will help with the perfectionism as well. Research indicates that targeting the maladaptive perfectionism with CBT in addition to the social anxiety becomes important when individuals have high levels of maladaptive perfectionism. 

Make imperfect your new perfect and break free from your social anxiety!

Suma Chand, PhD

headshot

Suma Chand, PhD, is a Professor and Director of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, St Louis University School of Medicine.  She is involved in the training of Psychiatry residents and fellows in CBT and as a SLUCare Provider runs CBT clinics for adults and older adults offering individual and group CBT. Dr. Chand's clinical and research interests are in the areas of CBT for adults and older adults with anxiety and depressive disorders, sleep related problems and maladaptive perfectionism. She also writes blog posts on mental health topics. Dr. Chand is a member of the  Public Education Committee of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and serves on the Board of Directors for the National Social Anxiety Center.

Use of Website Blog Commenting

Use of Website Blog Commenting

ADAA provides this Website blogs for the benefit of its members and the public. The content, view and opinions published in Blogs written by our personnel or contributors – or from links or posts on the Website from other sources - belong solely to their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of ADAA, its members, management or employees. Any comments or opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors only. Please remember that the open and real-time nature of the comments posted to these venues makes it is impossible for ADAA to confirm the validity of any content posted, and though we reserve the right to review and edit or delete any such comment, we do not guarantee that we will monitor or review it. As such, we are not responsible for any messages posted or the consequences of following any advice offered within such posts. If you find any posts in these posts/comments to be offensive, inaccurate or objectionable, please contact us via email at [email protected] and reference the relevant content. If we determine that removal of a post or posts is necessary, we will make reasonable efforts to do so in a timely manner.

ADAA expressly disclaims responsibility for and liabilities resulting from, any information or communications from and between users of ADAA’s blog post commenting features. Users acknowledge and agree that they may be individually liable for anything they communicate using ADAA’s blogs, including but not limited to defamatory, discriminatory, false or unauthorized information. Users are cautioned that they are responsible for complying with the requirements of applicable copyright and trademark laws and regulations. By submitting a response, comment or content, you agree that such submission is non-confidential for all purposes. Any submission to this Website will be deemed and remain the property of ADAA.

The ADAA blogs are forums for individuals to share their opinions, experiences and thoughts related to mental illness. ADAA wants to ensure the integrity of this service and therefore, use of this service is limited to participants who agree to adhere to the following guidelines:

1. Refrain from transmitting any message, information, data, or text that is unlawful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, that may be invasive of another 's privacy, hateful, or bashing communications - especially those aimed at gender, race, color, sexual orientation, national origin, religious views or disability.

Please note that there is a review process whereby all comments posted to blog posts and webinars are reviewed by ADAA staff to determine appropriateness before comments are posted. ADAA reserves the right to remove or edit a post containing offensive material as defined by ADAA.

ADAA reserves the right to remove or edit posts that contain explicit, obscene, offensive, or vulgar language. Similarly, posts that contain any graphic files will be removed immediately upon notice.

2. Refrain from posting or transmitting any unsolicited, promotional materials, "junk mail," "spam," "chain mail," "pyramid schemes" or any other form of solicitation. ADAA reserves the right to delete these posts immediately upon notice.

3. ADAA invites and encourages a healthy exchange of opinions. If you disagree with a participant 's post or opinion and wish to challenge it, do so with respect. The real objective of the ADAA blog post commenting function is to promote discussion and understanding, not to convince others that your opinion is "right." Name calling, insults, and personal attacks are not appropriate and will not be tolerated. ADAA will remove these posts immediately upon notice.

4. ADAA promotes privacy and encourages participants to keep personal information such as address and telephone number from being posted. Similarly, do not ask for personal information from other participants. Any comments that ask for telephone, address, e-mail, surveys and research studies will not be approved for posting.

5. Participants should be aware that the opinions, beliefs and statements on blog posts do not necessarily represent the opinions and beliefs of ADAA. Participants also agree that ADAA is not to be held liable for any loss or injury caused, in whole or in part, by sponsorship of blog post commenting. Participants also agree that ADAA reserves the right to report any suspicions of harm to self or others as evidenced by participant posts.

RESOURCES AND NEWS
Evidence-based Tips & Strategies from our Member Experts
RELATED ARTICLES
Block reference
TAKING ACTION
After viewing my art and story, I want others to understand that we are not alone in this and…

Advertisement