When You’re Going through Burnout and Stress from Perfectionism.

What happens when you're going through burnout, but you're also a perfectionist? Burnout, at its core, is exhaustion. But, when you’re exhausted, it becomes increasingly difficult to give 100%. 

Therefore, it's understandable why a perfectionist would become even more stressed at the idea of going through burnout. Perfectionists often embody all-or-nothing thinking which suggests that doing less than your best is like doing nothing at all(Sharon Martin, LCSW. Psych central). For example, if you’re an exhausted perfectionist who does not feel like you’re embodying your best, you might tell yourself, “You’re slacking. Work harder because there are only failures and successes.” All-or-nothing thinking doesn’t allow us to exist in between two extremities. 

Furthermore, feeling the need to constantly be your best is extremely pressurizing. It can also be very invalidating. At any rate, if you’re exhausted and trying your best, this qualifies as being your best in that moment. We live from moment to moment, and while you may have been able to do so much more yesterday upon having 8 hours asleep, how is that a relevant comparison to only having 5 hours of sleep today? Sleep matters, and it makes a huge biological difference. So, being exhausted is not a failure. It’s a physical response. You don’t have to apologize for what you’re body is doing. 

So, if you’re feeling burned out, it’s time to schedule a date to rest because endurance can only take you so far. We all have biological limitations, and that’s just fact. However, it’s true that perfectionism is often a mentality that’s difficult to undo. Perfectionism can be present due to what was expected from us as children(The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 2017). Maybe you even had to be independent or do everything on your own from a young age, and by the time you're an adult, you might be burned out (The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 2017). Experiences like this can also leave us feeling lonely, anxious, and isolated. 

You may often think, “No one understands the stress levels and pressure I’m under. No one is able to empathize with how overwhelmed I feel on a day-to-day basis. I feel alone and tired.” This is a time when you need to reach out even if you feel like they can’t completely empathize. But, not only do we need support from others, we also need support from ourselves. 

Don’t isolate your feelings and criticize yourself. It’s better to shift your thinking and view yourself as someone you’re friends with. For example, according to psychologists Frank Martin, here are three questions perfectionists can ask themselves to shift their thinking from self-criticism to self-compassion (Martin, Anthony. Ph.D., ABPP. Ryerson University). 

 If my best friend had this thought, what would I tell him or her?

If someone who loved me knew I was thinking this thought, what would he or she say to me? 

What impact might it have if I applied the sort of pressure I apply on myself to a close friend?  

Questions like these can help us humanize ourselves and have compassion. Perfection is not a requirement. Valuing ourselves is the requirement.