Understanding Atelophobia – the Fear of Imperfection
Do you ever get the feeling that nothing you do is good enough? No matter how hard you try, you can’t attain the level of finesse for which you strive? Does that feeling eat you up inside? Does it make you feel inferior to your peers?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then there is a high probability that you have atelophobia.
Explaining such a fear to your friends and family seems impossible. You have a constant need to hold yourself back from doing something because you’re afraid you won’t do it right.
Living with fear like this can prove to be extremely difficult and has the potential to make you feel very anxious as well. However, don’t feel disheartened. There are ways to overcome such a phobia. But for that, you first need to find the root cause.
What Causes Atelophobia?
There is a chance that your atelophobia is biological. It means that you are wired to be insecure, sensitive, and a perfectionist. It could also be caused in reaction to a specific traumatic experience that involved terrible circumstances with failure or pressure to be perfect.
When you grow up in an environment that’s critical and judges your every move, you don’t learn to tolerate or even accept the concept of anything less than perfect.
The term atelophobia comes from two Greek words, atelos, meaning “imperfect” and phobia, meaning “fear.” Hence, the word very literally means fear of imperfection. We often feel threatened by our fears, but phobias involve no real threat or danger.
Atelophobia is a type of anxiety disorder that presents itself as fear or anxiety. Often, atelophobia is regarded as perfectionism, or the drive to be perfect. And while that may be considered true, it is also an irrational fear of making a mistake. You tend to get very obsessed with the mistakes you have made in the past and begin to imagine mistakes that you could possibly make in the future. These thoughts can cause overwhelming anxiety, which makes you feel panicky and nauseous.
Atelophobia often makes you judgmental and causes you to make negative evaluations that you’re not doing things perfectly or in the right manner. Such an irrational need for perfection is very different than having ambition or striving for excellence. You may feel crushed or disheartened just by the idea of failing.
Symptoms of Atelophobia
One very common symptom of atelophobia is emotional stress. Emotional stress manifests itself as an increase in anxiety, panic, and fear.
In the case of atelophobia, the feared stimulus can be subjective. It is because what may seem wrong or imperfect to someone may seem fine or even perfect to someone else.
It may also lead to indecisiveness, procrastination, avoidance. You may begin to check all your work for mistakes excessively. Eventually, you start seeking out reassurance from those around you. Such in-depth and detailed perfectionistic concern could also result in burnout.
Due to the connection between the mind and body, it is very common for phobias to have physical symptoms. People experiencing atelophobia often complain of headaches and muscle tension.
Among other physical symptoms, you may feel hyperventilation, shortness of breath, and even stomach pain. People who have atelophobia may also suffer panic attacks when pressured into doing something in which they fear failure. It is important to know that atelophobia is different from atychiphobia, which is the fear of failure and may have entirely different symptoms.
Seeking help is the first step to learning how to overcome atelophobia.
Self Help—What Can You Do to Help Yourself
Before considering any professional treatment from outside, you should first consider finding a solution by yourself. After all, self-help is the best help. You could start by convincing yourself that your fear may be irrational.
The mind believes what it hears over and over again. Every day tell yourself that it is okay and whisper kind words of reassurance to yourself. Convince yourself that you’re doing okay.
When faced with situations in which the fear is triggered, try breathing exercises for keeping yourself calm. Take deep breaths or even try meditating. Another way to distract yourself from the fear could be to start to count numbers in your mind.
You could also try to write down your thoughts. This may help you realize patterns in which the atelophobia is triggering in you. Consciously focus on trying to replace the negative thoughts with positive qualities and traits.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Replace all the negatives with positive beliefs and statements, which will deplete the fear. And eventually, make it vanish completely.
Professional Help for Fear of Imperfection
There are therapists, psychologists, and specialists in phobias available at the press of a button in today’s day and age. They have expertise in the area of phobias, anxiety, and perfectionist issues.
They can help you develop a treatment plan that may include psychotherapy, medication, or even treatment groups. If the treatment plan is adhered to, you will find that your fears will have slowly started to deplete without you even noticing.
Learning to Cope with Atelophobia
While phobias don’t always vanish completely, it is better to have a control on them. This way, at least, you are in control of the phobia and the phobia is not controlling you. It is always better to be in control.
You will find that once you have developed a coping mechanism, even with your existing fears, you won’t feel as anxious as you did before. You will start to see the changes in yourself as you go.
Overcoming atelophobia can go a long way in allowing you to lead a normal life. You can now start trying all those sports you’ve been holding yourself back from out of the fear you won’t be good at them. Or try and hone your skills without worrying about being perfect. It may sound hard to believe, but we all need to embrace our flaws.
Accept the simple fact that no one is perfect, no matter how much we try, no matter how far we go, or how deep we fall. Once you accept that, you will finally feel at peace with yourself. You will feel the anxiety vanish and be able to open yourself up to the innumerable opportunities the world has to offer. All you have to do is take a deep breath and assure yourself that you’ve got this. Then without wasting another moment on thinking, dive into the task or skill at hand!