According to the definition of atelophobia, it is a specific phobia where one suffers from the fear of imperfection aka fear of not being good enough.
In modern society, perfectionism is seen as something utterly desirable because being a hardcore perfectionist means having high standards and often going out of your way to meet deadlines and do each job to perfection.
Perfectionism is an invisible, powerful force that motivates us to do the best we can, to survive severe conditions and never stop fighting till we finally reach the desired results.
But there’s a thin line between a healthy dose of perfectionism and atelophobia.
When high standards get replaced with impossible standards, it’s no longer craving perfection—it is the fear of imperfection.
When our body and mind start being preoccupied with every sign of potential imperfection, we develop atelophobia, which is a form of mental illness that belongs to a group of mental disorders (an anxiety disorder).
Atelophobes suffering from this psychological disorder deal with constant negative thoughts, negative emotions and the fear of making mistakes, which can severely damage their mental health and well-being in general.
Causes Of Atelophobia
Similarly to other phobias, atelophobia can be innate or learned. The cause is usually connected with traumatic events, demanding parents, a demanding curriculum or a strict regime from childhood where an individual didn’t have much space to make mistakes without feeling remorse.
Such rigid conditions directly impact an individual’s self-confidence, making them feel less worthy if they do not succeed in achieving the desired results.
Low self-esteem becomes deeply rooted in a sufferer’s being and the pursuit of perfection becomes a daily routine.
The pursuit of perfection converts into atelophobia, where a sufferer starts demanding the impossible from themselves and feeling extreme dissatisfaction if the results are not as expected.
However, it is really difficult (if not impossible) to define the specific root of the problem because it requires a lot of observation, details about their family background and childhood, the sufferer’s personality in detail, their brain chemistry and so on.
But one thing is sure: Parents play an important role when it comes to preventing atelophobia in their children.
Symptoms Of Atelophobia
When triggered by the thought of imperfection, atelophobic people experience both psychological and physical symptoms that can seriously impact their daily functioning and performance in general.
The sufferer feels out of control and deals with severe panic attacks and other physical symptoms that can seriously damage their mental health.
• feelings of powerlessness
• fear of doing wrong
• non-acceptance of challenge
• losing control
• losing focus
• panic attacks
• muscle tension
• severe headaches
• dry mouth
Apart from the above symptoms, there are also some major signs indicating that you might be a victim of atelophobia—the fear of imperfection.
So, if any of the following behaviors sound familiar, you should definitely seek a professional opinion!
1. You’re deathly terrified of flaws
We’re all scared of specific things and events to a certain extent but when that fear becomes irrational, we’re talking about atelophobia.
If you’re deathly terrified of making mistakes during exams, public speaking or any other situation, it means you’re deathly terrified of flaws.
If you always have an obsessive tendency to make things look perfect or to prepare yourself to perfection for a specific event, it means you’re not in control of your mind or body.
Atelophobia is ruling your world and that is the reason why the feelings of powerlessness start prevailing.
2. You’re steering clear of situations where you might make mistakes
One of the biggest indicators of atelophobia is avoiding situations where you might appear imperfect by making mistakes. Many people mistake this one for fear of being judged by others.
But an individual who suffers from atelophobia doesn’t have the fear of making mistakes because of other people’s opinions but because of their own.
The reason why atelophobic people decide to skip certain events entirely is because the mere thought is terrifying and they cannot help but judge themselves and keep dwelling on the fear of imperfection instead of facing it.
If this sounds familiar, the chances are that you might be a victim of this psychological disorder.
3. You’re highly critical of your own work
Do you have a tendency to check everything multiple times before publishing it and every time you check, you find more and more imperfections that regular humans find trivial?
Being highly critical of your own work equals setting impossible standards and feeling frustrated when you fail to meet them.
People with atelophobia are constantly on the lookout for their own flaws, mistakes and imperfections in every aspect of their lives.
This fear of imperfection turns into a limbo where you can no longer think rationally and wherever you go and whatever you do, the fear follows you.
4. You’d rather do nothing than do something wrong
Do you sometimes feel like you’d rather be a couch potato and do nothing than do something terribly wrong?
Does the uncertainty of new tasks that you’re not familiar with make you feel extremely frustrated and anxious?
Given that atelophobic people have this indescribable fear of making mistakes, they are really good at making excuses in order to avoid doing something.
Atelophobic people would always choose to do nothing before doing something which might result in imperfection.
5. Your fear of imperfection interferes with your everyday life
Atelophobia can cause serious difficulties in the workplace and with relationships and everyday life in general.
It can progress to the extent of making an individual feel paralyzed and unable to deal with simple tasks such as going to the grocery store.
If you’ve noticed that you have difficulties like carrying out work on time or maintaining your relationship, it means atelophobia is the thing in control of your life and not you and it’s time to seek professional help and start the healing process.
How To Overcome The Fear Of Imperfection?
If not treated, atelophobia can progress to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and create even bigger complications.
So, if you’ve just realized that your behavior exhibits signs of atelophobia, know that your body and mind are in need of professional advice and psychotherapy, where you’ll learn to understand what you’re going through, accept it and change it over time.
There are two different kinds of psychotherapy suggested by specialists:
This kind of psychotherapy helps the sufferer face their fears and the sessions are repeated several times until their brain adapts it and starts responding positively.
Exposure Therapy requires lots of patience for both the sufferer and the psychologist.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
This kind of psychotherapy is about modifying negative thoughts, emotions and patterns in order to alter the sufferer’s mood and overall behavior.
For the best results in the shortest time as possible, psychotherapists combine both Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy during sessions.
Other treatments include group therapy, meditation, hypnotherapy, energy psychology, etc.
Experiencing a certain amount of fear is a part of every human being but when that fear converts into the constant fear of imperfection aka atelophobia, it becomes irrational and it greatly affects our performance in our everyday life.
If not treated, atelophobia can seriously damage our physical and mental health and that is why seeking professional help is of the utmost importance.
And remember that your fears don’t make you who you are. Remember that you are good enough! Atelophobia is just a side effect that can be overcome easily.
It only requires your will, patience and belief that you will succeed and I can guarantee you that you will!