In our fast-paced world, it’s always about being better and faster – not only as compared to others, but as we were before. Life is seen as a competition, and only the fittest survive. Perfection is both ideal and a norm. However, as the saying goes, nobody is perfect. It is the striving for this seemingly paradoxical goal that leaves feelings of inadequacy and disappointment. Disappointments in life are inevitable, and so are challenges and difficulties.
It is noted however, that some seem to thrive while others cannot, more surprisingly so, even under the same conditions. The question therefore, is what differentiates the former from the latter? Perfectionism is a personality trait in which an individual who possesses it has and pursues exceedingly high standards; it is then by these unrealistic standards that one evaluates and criticizes himself (Di Schiena, Luminet, Philippot, Douilliez, 2012).
Perfectionism could be of two dimensions: self-oriented and socially prescribed. Enns and Cox (as cited in Stoeber & Childs, 2010), defines self-oriented perfectionism as having the perception that being perfect and striving for perfection is important; and is therefore characterized by setting excessively high standards for oneself. This dimension of perfectionism is self-imposed, compared to socially-prescribed perfectionism wherein the individual perceives an imposition by others.
Socially-prescribed perfectionism is characterized by the perception that others have excessively high expectations for an individual; and, to the individual acceptance by others is dependent on fulfilling these standards (Stoeber & Childs, 2010). Moreover, perfectionism could have either positive or negative implications on an individual. It could lead one to have a higher sense of achievement — never settling for mediocrity and always striving to improve one’s self.
On the other hand, the failure to live up to one’s own improbable standards causes a perfectionist to be more vulnerable to different types of psychological distress such as depression. Perfectionism in itself is amoral. However, its positive or negative implications are a product of an individual’s cognitive appraisal. One of the factors that lead one to be vulnerable is a distorted view of reality. A person could misconstrue an event to be bigger than it actually is — something we refer to as “making a mountain of a molehill.
Or a person could see only the event as he/she chooses to see it – selective attention, per se. Vulnerability then, when also taken into this context, is a case of mind over matter. Vulnerability focuses on the relationship of the individual with a perceived hostile environment, focusing on the individual’s resilience and adaptability. It has three determinants- genetics, social environment and cognition. With these in mind, the researchers aim to study vulnerability to depression of perfectionists by focusing on cognitive diathesis.
Specifically, this study focuses on the difference in levels of vulnerability to depression of perfectionists when they are classified as either self-oriented or socially prescribed. People who are depressed exhibit feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, and has an impaired daily functioning. Unfortunately, depression is common, persistent and recurrent. According to Jacobs, Reinecke, Gollan, and Kane (2008), major depressive disorder (MDD) is chronic and recurrent, often begins during adolescence, and frequently places young people at risk for recurrent MDD during their adult lives.
Thus, the adolescent years represent a critical period of vulnerability, and subsequently why adolescents were chosen as the main respondents of this study. This study aims to identify the different vulnerability of perfectionists to depression among adolescents, and therefore encourage professionals to address this pressing issue. Depression in the Philippines is a taboo topic; however it does not mean that it does not happen, nor does it mean that people are invulnerable to it.
One of our goals is identifying adolescents that may be susceptible to depression due to perfectionism. By focusing on vulnerability, we are emphasizing prevention of depression before it occurs. We hope to encourage parents, professionals and school administrators to address this issue by developing plans or programs that would address both dimensions of perfectionism, keeping in mind that adolescents differ in their vulnerability to depression.