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Bullying: Can it Cause Perfectionism??

Bullying is known to have detrimental effects for those who are on the receiving end. However, perfectionism is one which is not frequently discussed. Perfectionism is the self-defeating pursuit of flawlessness characterized by an interpretation of struggles as a result of one’s ineptitude and overly critical self-evaluations. Individuals who are bullied may develop socially prescribed perfectionism.

Socially prescribed perfectionists believe that others have specific expectations of them and have a fear that others will criticize them harshly if they “fail” to meet these standards.

Due to peer victimization, individuals may devote additional time to fixating on their “imperfections” and they may internalize many of their social interactions, conceptualizing correlations between certain aspects of their identity and the way in which they are treated. Each time others disapprove of them, they feel as if there is something wrong with them that they need to change. And this is an experience to which I, in particular, can relate.

When I was bullied, I would ruminate on the differences between how my classmates treated me and how they treated my peers and begin to wonder, why me? As I wondered, I began to identify the ways in which I may have differed from the students who were treated with kindness.

This newfound awareness of the disparity between my ideal self and my real self only exacerbated my habit of focusing on the things I disliked about myself and as you can imagine, destroyed my self-esteem. Out of the fear of being ostracized by other students, I started to adopt different personas that I thought would bring me acceptance and validation. And if I’m being

honest… It wasn't very effective. Even though I have managed to break away from this habit, I still struggle with self-deprecating humor, which is also a feature of socially-prescribed perfectionism.

Identification of the issue is always the first step towards its solution, and emotional support from family and friends is crucial to the triumph over feelings of inadequacy that accompany socially prescribed perfectionism. For me personally, journaling my feelings, my actions and what I think are the reasons behind these actions, as well as making an effort to find myself rather than identifying with the labels others assigned to me has been quite helpful.

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