Winnipeg workshop teaches how to overcome perfection in a social media-fuelled world

Winnipeg workshop teaches how to overcome perfection in a social media-fuelled world

In a world of photo filters and Facebook, many people put pressure on themselves to be perfect and present a flawless image to the world.

But that can have a major impact on our mental and physical health, according to research.

A Winnipeg counsellor is part of a workshop called Overcoming Perfection where people can learn the tools to live a more authentic life.

"I think perfectionism is a really important topic because we are living in a culture with so much pressure on people to achieve and have success and to get things right the first time and … on social media to present yourself in this perfect way," said Lisa Naylor, a Winnipeg School Division trustee and counsellor with the Women's Health Clinic where the workshop is taking place.

"Everything is filtered, whether it's images or words."

A 2014 study published in the Review of General Psychology showed that perfectionism is an amplifier of the risk of suicide and is linked to feelings of hopelessness.

Another study from 1991 published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that while perfectionism is often considered a positive aspect of a person's personality, it is actually linked to many negative outcomes such as feelings of failure, guilt, indecisiveness, procrastination, shame and low self-esteem.

"It's important to have goals, to want to achieve and for people that care about extremely high standards — that's not a bad thing. But perfectionism is when we are relentlessly striving for those things and don't have compassion or any sense of calmness in our life because of it," Naylor said on CBC Radio's Weekend Morning Show on Saturday.

When our social media life and our real life don't match up, the pressures can be even higher. Naylor said on a mass scale, "it helps if we can all live a little bit more authentically." That means not always using filters on photos, for example, and being honest about mistakes — maybe even laughing at ourselves.

"Telling a story that someone else can relate to about when you made that mistake … encourages them to be a bit more authentic in their lives as well," Naylor said.

The sold-out workshop in Winnipeg will help participants figure out where they are perfectionists in their own lives. Then it will give them skills to deal with it in a more healthy way.

Participants will also learn how to let themselves make a mistake and be OK with it.

"It's not a good feeling when we've made a mistake, been negative, or gotten negative feedback. But we work a lot with people in our program around using self-compassion and kindness, thinking about the fact of how we teach children to learn, you know, they make a mistake and we say it's a mistake and we teach them how to do it differently and it's a growth opportunity," Naylor said.

"If we can continue to apply that throughout our lives it has a dramatic effect."