Encanto Shows Why Perfectionism is Bad for Your Mental Health

isabela madrigal in encanto
PHOTO BY Disney

Trigger warning: Mentions of suicide and other mental health issues. If you are having thoughts of suicide, know that help is always here. You are not alone. Call the National Center For Mental Health 24/7 Crisis Hotline 1553, 0917 899 8727(USAP), and/or 7-989-8727 (USAP).

This article also contains Encanto spoilers.

(SPOT.ph) The most beautiful member of the magical Madrigal family, Isabela, who makes flowers bloom out of thin air, was ready to be betrothed to their town's most eligible bachelor, until an altercation with her sister, Mirabel, ruined the engagement dinner which led her to confess that she's tired of being perfect.

That epiphany in Disney's Encanto struck a chord with many who have struggled to meet targets, deadlines, and expectations while trying to thrive and stay alive in the COVID years. Do you need to be perfect to get validation?

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For Isabela, one of the film's most relatable characters, she was striving to be perfect to please her family, where those who don't get a gift of magic like Mirabel are ostracized. It doesn't help that she has the classic Latina good looks—long jet black hair, a trim waist and a smoldering gaze.

An international study on more than 40,000 college students conducted from 1989 to 2016 showed that young people are becoming more perfectionistic, according to Vox. A separate analysis of 284 studies also concluded that high levels of perfectionism are correlated with various mental health issues.

When striving for perfection becomes a burden and starts to affect one’s self-esteem, it’s no longer healthy, clinical psychologist Joseph Marquez said.

Kapag nakikita ng mga tao na you are flawless in everything, you get all the attention, lahat ng good things, the praises nakukuha mo, yung self-worth mo tumataas,” he said.

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Kaso kung binabase mo yung self-worth mo from other people at hindi ka na nila nagugustuhan, doon na maapektuhan ang self-esteem mo. Yun na yung neurotic (unhealthy) part ng perfectionism,” he added.

What is perfectionism?

In simple terms, perfectionism is a trait in which a person strives to be always excellent in everything he or she does, Marquez, the psychologist said.

A perfectionist is also someone who measures his or her self-worth based on achievements or what other people think of them, he added.

Concerned siya with striving for perfection, walang pagkakamali. Lahat ng ginagawa niya ay laging tama. Critical siya sa self-evaluations and concerned sa sinasabi ng ibang tao tungkol sa kanya,” Marquez said.

Is perfectionism bad? Not necessarily, according to Marquez. There is the so-called “normal” perfectionism wherein a person wants go everything according to plan.

“On their end, they want to see things na para sa kanila, maayos lang ang lahat. They pursue perfection na hindi naco-compromise yung self-esteem nila. They do that because yun ang gusto nila,” he said.

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But when a person’s self-worth is affected by the desire to be always perfect, it may no longer be good for his or her overall well-being and could even lead to mental health problems, Marquez said.

For example, a person who got a score of 98 out of 100 in a test would think that it’s still achievement, but a perfectionist  could beat himself up over it.

“For a person who has this perfectionist attitude, hindi yun ang ine-aim niya. It can lead to depression, anxiety. Iisipin niya ‘Sa susunod siguro, baka mababa pa rin ako,’” Marquez said.

Others who aim for a slimmer physique could also resort to drastic measures like depriving themselves of food, which could lead to bulimia, anorexia and other eating disorders, Marquez also said.

Nagkakaroon din yung iba ng suicidal thinking, sasabihin nila para silang wala nang worth,” he added.

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How to overcome unhealthy perfectionism

Although it pays to strive for excellence, too much perfectionism could also be harmful. For those who are struggling to find a balance, Marquez offered the following tips:

Evaluate yourself

In order to manage perfectionism, ask yourself first: “Why am I doing and who am I doing this for?” Awareness of oneself would help you make sense of your desire for perfection, Marquez said.

“That's the very first one para malaman mo 'I'm doing this ba because I have to do this? Because I need my parents' attention or validation?' Awareness talaga kung bakit niya ginagawa yun,” he added.

Look at things from a different perspective

When something didn’t go exactly the way you wanted, look at it from a different lens, Marquez said. It may be something that’s still worth celebrating.

Halimbawa, hindi mo nakuha yung 100 na score, 98 lang, it's still high. So you can look at it like that,” he said.

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Set realistic goals

When setting life goals, make sure that it is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely). This way, you won’t have to punish yourself over wanting to achieve unattainable goals, Marquez said.

“It should be realistic, hindi yung gusto mo sa lahat ng exams mo 100 ka. Kahit may mastery ka ng subject, hindi naman siya laging ganun. So it would be best to have those realistic goals,” he added.

Remember to take baby steps, Marquez said. “Kapag malaki agad yung step mo, baka big error agad mae-experience mo. At least with small steps, may magagawa ka and then unti-unti, you'll get there.”

Seek help

If managing perfectionism still difficult to do, Marquez advised to seek the help of a professional.

Kapag unhealthy na talaga siya, maganda if they would undergo psychotherapy or counseling. Kapag talagang unhealthy na, possibly magkaroon sila ng depression, anxiety, talagang affected na yung kanilang functionality bilang tao,” he added.

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In the end, people should realize that it’s not always about achieving the goal perfectly, but also the way of getting there that matters, Marquez said.

Sabi nga, it's not about the destination, it's the journey. So hindi lang yung dapat makuha mo lang siya. You have to look at yourself and ask: are you enjoying the journey on getting that goal of yours?” he added.

Clinical psychologist Joseph Marquez is based in Taytay, Rizal. His services can be accessed online. You may contact him through his page.

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