Social Media and Perfectionism Disorders

Reagan Fausett

Have you ever met one of those families that just seemed perfect? You know the type: kids all neatly dressed and well-behaved, parents who seem to be a part of every school and community function but still keep the house and yard spotless. It seems impossible, yet there they are. They must be perfect, right? Or at least they are in your eyes. You start to get annoyed with this family, and worst of all, you start to get annoyed with yourself. Why isn’t your family perfect? What are you doing wrong? 

This mindset is what’s known as perfectionism disorder, and it’s exactly what social media promotes in your children and even in you. 

Social Media and Perfectionism

Just like that perfect family in your community, social media makes you and your children begin to feel like you’re doing something wrong, or that you’re not good enough. The difference is that on social media, everyone seems perfect. Not just one family. 

You Don’t See Everything

Social media is the perfect place for people to live the lives they’ve always wanted, but don’t actually have. Everyone puts their best foot forward, posting edited photos and videos of themselves or their activities. But you don’t see what’s going on behind the screen, just like you don’t see what goes on behind the closed door of that perfect family’s house. All you see are snippets of carefully crafted perfection flying at you from every direction. 

Your Brain Equates Social Media With Reality

Thanks to social media, now it isn’t just that one family you see being perfect, it’s everyone you know. We begin to think that just because someone can post a perfect picture, they are perfect, but we fail to realize who the person behind the photo is. Instead of realizing that we aren’t seeing the full picture, we begin to believe that there is some level of perfection that everyone has achieved—everyone except us. 

What a Perfectionism Disorder Looks Like

Perfectionism disorders can affect us in many different ways. It might make us think we aren’t good enough. 

Negative Self-Image

Often those who struggle with perfectionism develop a negative self-image. They don’t feel like they’ll ever be pretty enough, fit enough, handsome enough, or good enough. They find it difficult to like who they are and be comfortable in their body. In more extreme cases, body image perfectionism manifests itself in eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

Overworking and Extreme Stress

Those who struggle with perfection might overwork or overstress themselves about things that aren’t important. They push themselves to the breaking point in order to make a project or performance perfect. This need to make everything perfect might also make someone prone to being controlling. 

Negative Self-Talk

Speaking as a recovering perfectionist, negative self-talk is one of the most challenging parts of a perfectionism disorder. As if it isn’t already hard enough to receive criticism from others (family, employers, etc;) your brain insists on tearing you down completely. The instant you make a mistake, your brain fills with ANTs (automatic negative thoughts). It takes conscious effort and time to change this pattern of thinking.

How to Fight a Perfectionism Disorder

Cut Back on Social Media Use

Social media and perfectionism are more connected than you might think. The more you are exposed to the picture perfect lives of those you follow on social media, the more you’ll be prone to place those unrealistic expectations on yourself, and the more likely you’ll be to develop a social media disorder. If you find yourself struggling with perfectionism, distance yourself from social media and focus more on what’s happening in the real world. Help your child cut back on social media use with a Troomi phone. As you gradually enable or disable certain features, your child can learn how to regulate their use by themselves. Limiting social media use will help you and your child regain perspective on what is and isn’t real.

Practice Self-Love

Perfectionism disorders lead you to believe you aren’t good enough. Practice self-love and acceptance by recognizing the demeaning thoughts that come when you make a mistake and instead turn them into positive thoughts. When you’re tempted to think “I can’t believe I did that; I’m so stupid,” stop yourself and change the thought to something like, “I’m disappointed this didn’t work the way I wanted, but it’s ok—everyone makes mistakes.” 

Another important part of self-love is allowing yourself to take breaks. Your perfectionism might try to convince you that you need to push yourself to your breaking point, leaving you emotionally and physically exhausted. Instead, take breaks or do something nice for yourself when you need to. If you begin to experience frequent pain or headaches, exhaustion, depression, or changes in appetite, your body might be trying to tell you that you’re too stressed. Listen to and take care of your body’s needs instead of pushing yourself to the limit. 

Focus on Who You Are, Not What You’ve Done

Perfectionists tend to measure their worth by their successes or failures. If you find yourself equating your worth as a person with what you’ve done, work on recognizing that self worth and accomplishments are two separate things. You might try mindful practices like reminding yourself of the positive attributes you possess or saying three things you like about yourself in the mirror each morning. When you face failure, stop and assure yourself that even though you didn’t do as well as you hoped, you are still a good person. 

Remember Common Humanity

Social media and perfectionism can go hand in hand, but regardless of how perfect you might think someone is, the reality is that they still have flaws. They might look perfect online, but behind all the filters, makeup, and money, everyone is just as imperfect as you are. So when you’re tempted to put yourself down for not looking or being like that cool Instagram influencer, remember that they have as much dirty laundry as you do—figuratively and literally.