Many of us feel the constant pressure to be perfect, and that could lead to atelophobia or the fear of being imperfect or not being good enough.
Like it’s not enough that we see the commercials all the time about those perfect women who never tolerate a stain on their shirt, we are expected to be perfect on the job interviews where we are asked about our weaknesses. So what if that weakness is actually the fear of imperfection?
There’s a thin line that separates healthy behavior from phobias, and it is sometimes too easy to cross it. Everyone aims towards perfection, but to the person that has atelophobia, the idea of doing something wrong can be terrifying.
What is atelophobia? The word comes from a Greek word that means “imperfect” or “incomplete” so atelophobia definition would be the fear of not being good enough and being a disappointment because of imperfection.
Do you feel like you are never good enough and think you are a disappointment to those around you because you could never achieve perfection?
Let me tell you something, this is the exact atelophobia meaning, but you are not alone. Many of us feel like we are never good enough and aim for perfection, terrified that we are going to disappoint those around us if we don’t achieve it. We feel it in both our professional and personal life.
Of course, we could blame it on the unrealistic standards dictated by modern society, but once the damage is already done, is it really important to know who to blame for it? Everyone feels pressured by this, but some of the people invest effort into overcoming the fear and try to do the best they can and feel satisfied with that.
But for some of us, not doing things perfectly means that we are a disappointment, and it terrifies us. It’s important to realize that we are actually obsessive and irrational, and it could lead to atelophobia – a real anxiety disorder.
Healthy perfectionists set high but achievable standards for themselves and even enjoy working hard and maybe even struggling a bit. But having their eyes set on their goal of achieving perfection doesn’t make them lose control over themselves. While in the case of neurotic perfectionists, they cannot settle for anything less than perfection, which makes them very anxious. They destroy themselves with the pressure they created.
The cause of atelophobia could be coming from the need for parental approval if it was only conditional, and if your parents didn’t openly communicate about the expectations they have from you, it could have caused you to become atelophobic.
If you are prone to harsh self-criticism and define your high standards as an essential necessity, you might have atelophobia symptoms, and it means that you have to do something about it before it drives you insane.
The modern times brought us competitive individualism and forced us to compare ourselves with others and feel uncomfortable with our status and achievements so far, so we are using material things to show high status and seem perfect to others. Because of the constant feeling that we are judged by others, we turn to perfectionism as a form of defense mechanism.
What also contributed to our need for perfection is the rise of social media in which everyone appears to be perfect. It makes us self-conscious about a lot of things, whether it’s about the body we have, how much we travel or the overall expense of our lifestyle.
Here are the 5 atelophobia symptoms you might have:
1. You are terrified that you are going to make a mistake
People are generally scared of making a mistake, but if you are terrified when you even imagine that you could make a mistake, it might be more serious than in most people because this is one of the atelophobia symptoms.
2. You do your best to avoid making mistakes and seeming imperfect
If you are terrified of making mistakes so much that you avoid the situations in which you might make mistakes, it is very likely that you are suffering from atelophobia.
This avoidance is exactly what puts atelophobia on the list of phobias. It is important to point out that social phobia is, however, something different because people with social phobia fear being judged by others, while people suffering from atelophobia actually judge themselves.
3. You set such high standards that they’re impossible
If you are like me, you are highly critical of your own work, and this might mean that we are suffering from atelophobia. We are on the constant lookout for our own mistakes and would rather give up on everything that make mistakes while doing it.
4. Doing nothing is better than doing it incorrectly
What interferes with your professional life is that you would rather not do anything, than do things incorrectly because you are avoiding the situations which could cause you to make mistakes, as I said before.
When you do things, they need to be done perfectly; otherwise, they shouldn’t be done at all, and since you have such impossible standards, it’s clear that you will most of the time have a fear of making mistakes and won’t dare to do things at all.
5. This fear is interfering with your life
Many of these symptoms are relatable to most people, and it’s important to know the difference between a phobia and regular behavior.
The key difference is that regular people get over their fears, no matter how much they dislike the feeling, while atelophobia makes it hard for you to function normally in society, and it makes problems in both your professional and personal life.
This is why it’s maybe time to seek professional help if this fear of imperfection is interfering in your life and making it hard for you to function properly.
What does atelophobia mean?
If you feel anxious when you don’t do a task well, or you fail at something, this is the atelophobia meaning. The idea of imperfection, however, is entirely subjective, so it is impossible to define atelophobia in the sense of situations that serve as a trigger.
People who are atelophobic will experience irrational and involuntary fear when they think about imperfection, and the anxiety will kick in. That anxiety will continue to cause physical, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms.
You might start sweating with your heart racing and have thoughts about your ability to confront the situation you’re in, and you will do your best to avoid it.
People suffering from this phobia will always be alert and making sure that they don’t find themselves in the situation that will make them seem imperfect.
How to overcome atelophobia
When it comes to atelophobia treatment, it depends on how severe is the condition, but it’s either only psychotherapy or psychotherapy combined with anti-anxiety medications.
Exposure therapy and cognitive behavior therapy have been proven to be effective in treating the fear of being imperfect. They focus on making you confront your fears repeatedly in order to rewire the brain. It modifies your negative thought patterns and strengthens your coping strategies.
Cognitive behavior therapy identifies triggers and behaviors. It might be a situation where you are promoted at work or find yourself in a new work environment. Those critical behaviors are evaluated for the duration, frequency, and intensity.
This kind of therapy actually works because the human brain has the ability to adapt and learn. So by exposing you to a similar situation that triggers you and equipping you with the right set of coping mechanisms, your brain reprograms itself and reacts better later. And this is how you overcome your phobia.
If there are physical symptoms that come with atelophobia, you might need anti-anxiety medications in order to suppress them so you could devote yourself completely to therapy.
What is also recommended in addition to therapy is meditation and also some breathing exercises. Group therapy also proves itself to be useful. But the best result is achieved if all the types of atelophobia treatment are combined.
In any case, if after reading this article you think that you might be atelophobic you should learn more about what is atelophobia and how to cure it, and it is highly recommended that you seek a professional for the right treatment. What you can do yourself is start meditating and trying to relax through breathing exercises.