Student Government Association guest speaker Counselor Caroline Allen-Ross spoke to students about perfectionism Tuesday in the TMB auditorium.
Allen-Ross said perfectionism is a personality disorder that can have drastic effects on everyone, especially college students. Her speech, ‘When being perfect is stressing you out,’ identified symptoms of perfectionism and provided tips on how to deal with it.
“It can be a terrible situation if you’re a perfectionist and you’re trying to pass tests and get through classes,” Allen-Ross said as she began her speech. “Perfectionism is one of the greatest contributors to stress in our society.”
She said perfectionism is not always a bad thing, but it becomes a problem when someone takes it too far. There are two types of perfectionism that affect 18-20% of people around the United States, according to Allen-Ross.
Normal perfectionism involves pursuing perfection and taking pride in accomplishments without compromising self-esteem; she said neurotic perfectionism, the second type, is taking that pursuit and putting it “on steroids.”
Neurotic perfectionism can be related to disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and both are categorized as General Anxiety Disorders. Allen-Ross said that perfectionism can actually prevent someone from accomplishing their work.
After spending a great deal of time worrying about details and getting things just right, a perfectionist usually forgets why they began the job in the first place. She provided seven tips to deal with this problem.
Cutting yourself slack, learning that mistakes are not catastrophes and avoiding over-analyzing negative outcomes can help. However, Allen-Ross said finding a balance in life is the key to overcoming perfectionism.
She asked students what they should do when they feel overwhelmed after studying too long for a test, or spending too much time writing an essay. For a perfectionist, it seems impossible to stop until the work is done, but Allen-Ross insisted it is important to step back and take a break.
Not only does taking breaks help reduce stress, it also can calm the mind, helping someone to think more clearly about a subject.
She concluded her speech with the message that perfectionism is an issue that affects a large number of young students, but that it can be overcome using simple, everyday steps.
“I identified with a lot of what she said,” Student Casey Payne said after the speech. “I had always thought that with things like OCD and perfectionism, it was more severe and the problem was more noticeable. But she made it more relatable, and I’ve always had some of the thoughts she spoke about.”
Payne said she was glad Allen-Ross gave tips on how to deal with perfectionism. She said she thought they would be helpful for college students.
Allen-Ross earned a master’s degree in psychology with a concentration in clinical psychology from JSU. She currently works with children, youth, and families in crisis as a licensed professional counselor with Garrett Counseling and Consulting in Jacksonville. Allen-Ross said counselling has been a passion for her throughout her life.