New research finds that relating to oneself in a healthy way can help weaken the association between perfectionism and depression.
Perfectionism is complex, with positive and negative forms of the personality trait, according to lead author Dr. Madeleine Ferrari from Australian Catholic University. Several studies have shown that the striving to attain high personal standards in and of itself is not necessarily destructive, and can have adaptive and positive consequences.
This healthy form of perfectionism can predict higher levels of conscientiousness, self-esteem, and positive affect as well as lower depression and perceived hassles, Ferrari writes.
By contrast, perfectionism that involves self-criticism, concerns about making mistakes, and concerns about being negatively evaluated by others has been linked to various forms of psychopathology. When perfectionists fail, they often experience depression and burnout.
In the new study, Australian researchers considered whether self-compassion, a kind way of relating to oneself, might lessen the link between perfectionist tendencies and depression.
Self-compassion is described as a healthy way of relating to oneself — a skill that can be cultivated, the researchers write. “Self-compassion, the practice of self-kindness, consistently reduces the strength of the relationship between maladaptive perfectionism and depression for both adolescents and adults,” Ferrarri writes.
Improving self-compassion is an indirect strategy to change a persons’ relationships to difficult thoughts. The approach is distinct from trying to change the thoughts directly and can be just as effective.
The study appears in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
Ferrari and colleagues administered anonymous questionnaires to assess perfectionism, depression, and self-compassion across 541 adolescents and 515 adults. Their analyses of these self-assessments revealed that self-compassion may indeed help uncouple perfectionism and depression.
The unique study design, and the resultant similar outcome among adolescents and adults, suggests that self-compassion may help moderate the link between perfectionism and depression across the lifespan.
The authors believe self-compassion interventions could be a useful way to undermine the effects of maladaptive perfectionist thoughts. However, future experimental or intervention research is needed to fully assess this possibility.
Source: PLOS One