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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

The Perfectionism Trap: Is social media fuelling our addiction to perfection?

The endless scroll of social media is a part of everyday life, and it feels as if it’s here to stay. There are lots of things that are useful, and helpful, about social media. But if you struggle with perfectionism, then this can be triggered and exacerbated by social media. In this article for The Wonderment, I look at why social media might be fuelling our addiction to perfection, and what you can do about it.


What is perfectionism?

At first glance, the idea of perfectionism seems fairly benign. I’m imagining someone who is at the top of their game, does everything well, looks immaculate, never offends anyone and goes home at the end of each day to a neat and tidy house. Sounds ideal.

But when we scratch the surface, we realise that perfectionism is a tightrope walk. The drive for perfectionism is a march towards impossibly high standards and expectations. Perfectionism can paralyse us, if it makes us worried that perfection is unattainable. This can leave us stuck, procrastinating, or frightened to do anything at all. It can leave us feeling numb or anxious, it can impact on our self-esteem, and stop us from trying new things, or taking risks.


So how does our use of social media add fuel to the fire of perfectionism?
  • Unrealistic standards. If perfectionism is all about unrealistic standards, then social media offers this in abundance. Open any social media app, and you’ll soon see an image, a story, a video, a quote, or something else that offers you a glimpse into someone else’s life. More often than not, this glimpse reminds us of the flaws and imperfections that we believe about ourselves.

  • Effortless perfection. It’s not just what we are presented with, it’s also about the way that it is served up to us. Perfection on social media appears to be effortless. Our instinct is to compare ourselves with what we see online. And social media makes it easy for us to fall into this trap, offering us metrics for ‘views’ and ‘likes’ and ‘shares’. This serves to lower our confidence and heighten any anxiety we feel about ourselves.

  • Our sense of belonging. Before social media, we might have been blissfully unaware of what everyone else was up to. The adventures and social events that we were missing – or worse, not invited to. Now it’s laid out for us to see. It attacks our sense of who we are, and whether we feel as if we belong.

  • ‘Reality’ online. More recently, there have been moves towards more realistic content on social media. People offering more genuine, vulnerable dialogue about the reality of their lives. But yet, there’s still a sense of disconnection and isolation about looking at other people’s lives on social media. Do you remember the app ‘BeReal’? It’s still around. When it was first launched, it felt like a moment of genius. Users were encouraged to show a snapshot of unvarnished reality. However, recent figures show that its use is in decline. It turns out that our appetite for reality isn’t as big as we thought it was.

Here are my tips for taking back control over social media and escaping the trap of perfectionism.
  • Choose your boundaries and stick to them. Set yourself time limits. Use device settings to help you to enforce these on yourself. Consider telling other people, so that you are accountable to them too.

  • Challenge yourself to find the reality on social media. Take it with a pinch of salt. For every perfectly lit, perfectly groomed, perfectly staged image, ask yourself how much work has gone into it? Imagine the outtakes, the missteps, the discarded images that they haven’t chosen to show.

  • Notice your response to social media. Are there patterns? Are there certain moments when you find that your social media use triggers your perfectionism. Be curious about this. Maybe there are certain times when you feel more vulnerable. Use this information to help you to make informed decisions about how and when to use social media.

  • Control your feed. Notice which people, accounts, groups, or events send you spiralling into perfectionism. Can you delete them, mute them, unfollow them? Can you replace them with things that make you feel content and secure?

  • Make time for real-life activities. Proactively choose activities that take you away from your screens.

  • Celebrate successes. If you’ve spent time away from an app, or changed the way that you use it, notice how you feel. It might take a while, but maybe there’s a difference – are you less anxious, less fearful, more content, less stressed. Celebrate the change and use it to motivate yourself.

Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at how you feel about yourself, and how it impacts on your daily life. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call.



Perfectionism Trap: social media addiction perfection





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