This is something that hadn’t really crossed my mind before, but the more I look into this subject, the more it makes total sense and I can actually relate to it a lot, even if I haven’t got my official diagnosis yet. It’s something that I have lived with from childhood – I was always the good kid and very much a people pleaser.
Unfortunately, Perfectionism has the reputation of being a good trait, but, of course, no one is perfect, so when the inevitable happens, it can have disastrous consequences and can seriously impact mental health. People on the spectrum tend to have a clear picture of ‘perfection’ and this is where masking can play a huge part in the role of being perfect, especially in women. It can be extremely damaging and is highly linked to Anxiety and Depression.
Essentially, the need for perfection is driven by fear. Fear of making mistakes, of not pleasing someone and the fear of disapproval – and that’s an awful way to live – constantly in fear of something going wrong that will take that stance on something not going your way and your vision of perfect. I’ve lived this life – I even had CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to try and combat it – many times. It’s a daily battle of planning every single detail – conversations, travelling to and from places, people pleasing and so much more – let me tell you, the anxiety is REAL and can be debilitating.
There are several factors that can cause perfectionism [for autistic people]. Here are just a few of them:
- Black and White/All or Nothing Thinking: Many perfectionists with ASD tend to feel that their work can either be perfect or dreadful, with nothing in between. So, there is only 2 options when doing a task – succeed or fail.
- Attention to Detail: When you are extremely detail-oriented, you’re naturally going to be more likely to notice even the tiniest flaws, even when no one else does.
- Social Issues: Many perfectionists feel that people will only love them or view them as having worth if they do everything right. That may also be the case for people with autism. Additionally, and more specifically to autism, a person who struggles with social cues may not know what their peers are thinking or feeling when he makes a mistake; naturally, that can provoke anxiety.
- Perseveration: People with autism often get “stuck” on certain thoughts. As a result, they may be unable to stop thinking about whatever mistake they may have made, which fuels anxiety about making future mistakes.
So, to the perfectionists out there, remember:
- It’s OK To Make Mistakes
- You can ask for help - You can handle making mistakes – they can always be corrected or worked on.
- Mistakes do not mean you are less worthy
- Most mistakes are actually small problems
- You can learn from your mistakes.