Pitfalls of Perfectionism

If you find that you struggle with excessive worry, negative self talk, feelings of low self worth, are highly critical, and feel like it’s never enough, there’s a good chance your experiencing perfectionism. And although it’s not a formal diagnosis, it comes with a high cost to your well being.

In truth, perfectionism is a failure set up and when we engage in perfectionism we hurt ourself and lose sight of our personal values and what is really important to us. Perfectionists are also more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and feelings of shame. There is often a lack of personal identity and because of the constant worry and negative mental dialogue, there is little room for spontaneity, creativity, and fun.

I recently read Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and it was life changing. She discusses perfectionism in depth, and gives “guideposts” on how to live a more authentic and meaningful life. I also love that this book doesn’t minimize how scary this work is and acknowledges the challenging nature of the bumpy and rewarding journey that it is. It’s real.

My personal favorite guidepost in her book is on cultivating compassion. I use this skill both personally and professionally with my clients on a daily basis and in a variety of ways. This includes when I make mistakes.

Mistakes are a part of life and we all make them. It’s ok to give yourself permission to make them and be compassionate towards yourself when you aren’t perfect. Below are some ways that I have incorporated self compassion when mistakes happen.

1. Be aware of the thoughts and feelings that are coming up. Try to notice without judgment. Instead of criticizing yourself, validate your feelings tell yourself “It’s ok that I’m feeling…..” or be curious “I’m curious about why I’m feeling this way.”
2. Do your best to use gentle self talk. “It’s ok, we all make mistakes”. “You’re human” “It’s going to be ok”. If you find that you are struggling with this, maybe contact a loved one who can be supportive and help you find words of compassion.
3. Think about your values, what’s really important to you, and how would you like to move forward. I find, when I think about my values, the thing  that is causing me stress usually doesn’t feel as big and powerful.

Although I gave a few tips that are helpful, the road to freedom from perfectionism is unique to all who travel it. Unfortunately, it’s not a black and white path. It is, incredibly messy and rewarding. It can be helpful to navigate the path with lots of help and support. Books, support groups, talking to safe friends/loved ones, therapy, being silly, and never underestimating the power of a good cry, laugh, or dance party, are all great resources!

If you’re interested, here is the link to Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, ENJOY!