The Origins of Anxiety

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What's the origin of these traits that perpetuate anxiety? Such traits as creativity and emotional sensitivity may well be part of the hereditary component of anxiety disorders. On the other hand, perfectionism and excessive need for approval or control most likely have their origin in early childhood experiences. There are various ways in which you can acquire such traits. If your parents have these traits, you may learn them directly by following their example. If your mother and father are high achievers, and demand perfection of themselves, you may internalize their values and have in a similar way. Alternatively, such traits may develop our of your response to the ways in which you were treated by one or both of your parents. If, for example, you were criticized or reprimanded, you may have decided early on that nothing you could do was good enough. As a result, you strive to do everything perfectly. Or you might constantly seek reassurance and approval. In the process, you may have also learned to deny your feelings and ignore signs of stress.

Perfectionism has two aspects. First, you have a tendency to have expectations about yourself, others, and life that are unrealistically high. When anything falls short, you become disappointed and/or critical. Second, you tend to be overconcerned with small flaws and mistakes in yourself or your accomplishments. In focusing on what's wrong, you tend to discount and ignore what's right.

Perfectionism is a common cause of low self-esteem. It is critical of every effort and convinces you that nothing is ever good enough. It can also cause you to drive yourself to the point of chronic stress, exhaustion, and burnout. Every time perfectionism counsels counsels you that you "should", "have to", or "must", you tend to push yourself forward out of anxiety, rather than from natural desire and inclination. The more perfectionistic you are, the more often you're likely to feel anxious.

Overcoming perfectionism requires a fundamental shift in your attitude toward yourself and how you approach life in general. The following seven guidelines are intended as a starting point for making such a shift.

Let Go of the Idea That Your Worth Is Determined by Your Achievements and Accomplishments

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