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Perfectionism and Longevity: Is Striving for Perfection Useful?

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Perfectionism and Longevity: A Perfect Match?

Key takeways

Certain perfectionists direct their tendencies toward their health

However, there is no evidence demonstrating that perfectionism and longevity are correlated

Moderation may be the key to a longer life, according to various studies. 

When a person claims to be a perfectionist, you may find yourself rolling your eyes or sighing. Alternatively, if you are a supportive friend, colleague, or partner, you may try to help them attain their “perfect” goals. Regardless of your reaction, it is important to understand that your interlocutor may not be exaggerating their perfectionist tendencies since perfectionism, as a trait, has been widely documented.  

Table of contents

Types of Perfectionism 

Although perfectionism is not considered a medical diagnosis, there are apparent behaviors demonstrated by those with this personality trait. For instance, perfectionists actively pursue flawlessness and often set incredibly high standards of performance. According to research, there are primarily three types of perfectionism. 

  1. Self-oriented perfectionism (SOP): Such perfectionists typically set very high standards for themselves in terms of their performance.
  2. Others-oriented perfectionism (OOP): As the name suggests, this entails setting extremely high standards for other people’s performance.
  3. Socially-prescribed perfectionism (SSP): Finally, this group of perfectionists believes that either society or certain people are responsible for the extremely high standards that they are being held up to.        

 

While perfectionism is often considered in the context of work or personal life, in some people, it manifests in their perception of their health. Substantial research was conducted to determine the kind of perfectionism that leads to an increase in behaviors that aim to promote health. While any association between OOP and health-promoting behaviors was absent, since the perceived social support is lower in SSP, health-promoting behaviors were also identified to be lower with this type of perfectionism. However, research has demonstrated that SOP-based people pursue health-based perfectionism by engaging in behaviors that enhance, promote, or support their health.              

Orthorexia, which is the obsession with consistently consuming healthy food, is one manifestation of this type of perfection. Anywhere between 6% to 75% of people within a given population may be navigating orthorexia. Nutrition is merely one approach undertaken by people pursuing health perfectionism. For instance, Bryan Johnson, who is a software billionaire, goes through extreme steps to avoid interruptions during his sleeping hours. He engages in intense pelvic floor exercises that those suffering from urinary incontinence are typically prescribed, in order to sidestep the need to make bathroom visits at night. But that is not all. He is spending more than $2 million each year to reverse aging by ensuring that each singular aspect of his overall health remains perfect.        

Johnson was studied by more than 30 experts in the field, who also partook in the creation of the customized protocol dedicated to his longevity and health. His routine also includes consuming more than 100 pills each day. According to Johnson, he is dedicated to sticking to this protocol without any sort of deviation.   

While his methods are often debated, it is undeniable that Johnson established himself as a figure to look toward when talking about longevity. 

Is This Pursuit Worth It?

Based on the information provided above, it is natural to be intrigued and curious. But if you are contemplating pursuing health perfectionism, this article lists various reasons as well as evidence to dissuade you from undertaking this journey. The five points listed below explain how perfectionism may be counterproductive to longevity. 

1- Health Perfectionism Isn’t a Sustainable Model

So, you woke up today and decided to make a small change to improve your longevity by pursuing perfect health. You got rid of seed oils and opted for olive oil for your cooking needs. But then, you read somewhere that extra virgin olive oil is a much better option. So, you make the switch. Upon realizing that your bottle of oil isn’t cold-pressed, you run back to the store yet again. Now, your neighbor tells you that unless your oil is single-origin, you are not impacting your life significantly. You pay heed to this advice and order single-origin oil. 

But what good is this oil if the olives are not harvested by hand? Essentially, as you encounter new information every day, you find your perception of what is “healthy” changes continuously. This process can be quite taxing; eventually, you may wonder why you set yourself down this path.

In fact, in terms of nutrients, the type of oil you use is merely one part of the overall equation. Nutrition, on the other hand, is also just one aspect of this journey of longevity. Thus, pursuing longevity across various aspects, which are further divided into sub-aspects is not very sustainable.    

Instead, you can design your health regimen in a way that sustainability-based goals are incorporated in each step.  

“Your goal should be to opt for solutions that are sustainable and can be worked with on a long-term basis. Instead of beginning a diet that is 10/10 but is very challenging to sustain after a month or two, pursue a 6/10 duet that you can confidently sustain forever,” explains Henning Kalwa, ImagineHealth’s CEO.

This advice can be extrapolated to other aspects of longevity, such as your sleep schedule and physical activity. 

2- Mental Health Takes a Backseat

Even if you have the money, time, and willpower to pursue perfect health, you will still bear the burden of intense stress. In any facet of life, high stress levels are unavoidable when trying to chase perfectionism.   

When an individual experiences such stress, it could lead to a host of mental health issues, as evidenced by an extensive meta-analysis of 284 studies. According to this assessment, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and self-harming behaviors demonstrate a high correlation with high perfectionistic traits. Furthermore, sleeplessness, headaches, and other physical symptoms may also emerge when an individual consistently attempts to pursue perfectionism.      

In extreme cases, individuals who seek perfectionism may opt for an easy way out via suicide. In one particular study, it was determined that more than 70% of suicide victims habitually self-imposed extremely high standards on themselves.   

3- Inflammation Has Been Associated With Perfectionism

It is common knowledge that in response to physical injuries, infections, and other malignancies, our body develops inflammation. This mechanism informs our immune system to implement measures to defend the body against foreign elements and heal any damaged tissue. Understandably, chronic inflammation can also adversely affect your body.   

While most of us associate perfectionism with a mental state that drives behavior, it has been determined that this trait can lead to excessive inflammation, which is a physical response of the body. Several young Canadians underwent a study, wherein it was revealed that high levels of stress are demonstrated by those who engage in perfectionistic behaviors. The study found that these individuals also produced high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is associated with inflammation. 

Based on this study, one may conclude that the stress that is induced when an individual pursues perfectionism can lead to chronic inflammation. What is worth noting is that it isn’t conventional pathology that leads to an increased level of inflammation and CRP; it is your mind that leads to these adverse effects. The negative implications of perfectionism are apparent from this information. 

4- Chronic Diseases are Linked to Perfectionism

When perfectionism is involved, it can cause stress and inflammation, as we have noted in the preceding section. This combination can lead to a host of chronic diseases.

Among them, the most important disease to watch out for is heart disease. In one study that aimed to understand the correlation between heart disease and perfectionism, there was an emphasis on heart rate variability. This is nothing but the difference in the time period between each heartbeat. The heart rate variability of perfectionists is typically quite low. This can be attributed to the fact that their body cannot adapt easily as situations change because of how they perceive everyday struggles. Such low variability is a sign of greater health problems.     

Another disorder that is associated with perfectionism is Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). In an individual diagnosed with IBD, the digestive tract undergoes significant chronic inflammation. According to studies, greater sickness impact was reported for the two forms of IBD – ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease – when an individual demonstrates perfectionistic self-presentation and trait perfectionism. Perfectionists tend to experience social disconnection, which is further exacerbated by IBD, leading to various physical symptoms as well as high levels of stress.  

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which is also associated with perfectionism, is a disorder wherein no medical condition can be identified to explain the intense fatigue that a person experiences. According to studies, the activity of the primary stress response system in our bodies – the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis – diminishes when perfectionism is at play.  

Scientists continue to delve into the association between perfectionism and chronic diseases. However, from the above information, it is apparent that a person’s health can be significantly affected by perfectionism, which sometimes causes chronic diseases and illnesses.

I wanted to set forth on a journey to improve my longevity. However, every health provider claimed to be the best in Thailand. I am glad I encountered ImagineHealth, because they took the time to understand me and my goals, after which they customized a plan for me to optimize my health without falling into the painful trap of perfection.”

5- Perfectionism May Be Counterproductive to Longevity

Let us now answer the primary question that guided this article: Do perfectionists actually live longer? In a recent Canadian study, participants aged 65 and above were studied over a span of 6.5 years, wherein the focus was on their personality traits and health operating as predictors of mortality. 

The mortality rate of those who claimed to be perfectionists was 51% higher than others. Thus, when we pursue perfection, we may be looking at a shorter lifespan.

Fun Fact: Perfectionism is Not a Centenarian Trait 

While the aforementioned points shed light on all the reasons why perfectionism may not lead to a long healthy life, this final point reiterates that non-perfectionism may be the key to those seeking longevity.      

Jeanne Calment lived for 122 years, which remains the longest documented lifespan. She began to smoke when she was just 21 and finally quit after she turned 117. However, she only smoked about one cigarette each day.  Although smoking still wouldn’t be recommended by health professionals merely based on her life story, it is still important to point out that Calment’s lifespan suggests that some infractions are acceptable even if your goal is longevity. Calment also consumed chocolates and wine occasionally.         

Blue Zones are areas wherein the longevity of people is higher than average. Even here, moderation is the key as opposed to perfectionism. Those staying in Blue Zones eat their favorite dishes twice each week and partake in various community gatherings. Thus, what Bryan Johnson considers an infraction is a way to celebrate life in these regions without any guilt.  

While they indulge in such celebrations, they also work on their health by consuming whole foods, working out, and contributing to their community. 

Find Out ImagineHealth’s Exclusive Healthcare Offers in Thailand

Заключение

ImagineHealth can facilitate interventions that will significantly reduce the age of your immune system, helping you stay healthy, fight off diseases, and ultimately live a long and vibrant life. There’s no need to go to extreme lengths or adopt drastic measures in the pursuit of longevity. Our approach introduces you to powerful, scientifically-backed interventions that may only need to be done once per year. These treatments are designed to set you up for long-term health and wellness with minimal disruption to your daily life. Let ImagineHealth guide you on a sustainable path to enhanced longevity with ease and confidence.

About the author

Хеннинг Кальва

Henning Kalwa is a visionary healthcare executive dedicated to democratizing access to innovative Longevity Medicine at affordable prices. Inspired by the accessibility enjoyed by global elites, Henning founded ImagineHealth with a mission to ensure that more people can benefit from cutting-edge healthcare solutions. With over 15 years of experience in healthcare management and a graduate of Harvard Medical School’s Southeast Asia Healthcare Leadership program, Henning is committed to transforming ImagineHealth into Thailand’s premier health facilitation company.
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