Do you tend to tilt towards a perfectionist personality? These behaviors can show up in sneaky ways. Often people do not see the perfectionism hiding in plain sight. Other times, the flashing red lights are screaming perfectionism and there is no denying.
So, how does perfectionism show up in life? Like I said, it can be covert or overt. Some examples are self-critical thoughts when you make a mistake or attempts to control others to get them to do things the way YOU want them to. Perfectionism is rigidity in thinking and feeling. Two of the common unhelpful thinking patterns that correlate with perfectionism are ‘all or nothing’- mistakes are not permissible. I either do it perfect or not at all. AND ‘shoulds‘- “I should be doing better”, “my partner should know how to.….”
Underneath the behaviors are beliefs- lurking around & stirring the muddy waters waiting for you fall in. “If I make a mistake, I will feel shame, if I feel shame, then I am no good and will be rejected by others.” ENTER FEAR. Fear of shame, isolation, losing control and on and on and on.
WHAT TO DO?
- Validate this part of you. It’s not ALL of you. Our behaviors & defenses serve us. Yep, they have a legit function. Identify the areas of life that are impacted by your perfectionistic behaviors. Is it your self-image and physical presentation? The media is adept at telling us how we need to look/be. Does it show up at work by needing others to align to your standards? Where do you go overboard in life? Where is the imbalance or addictive patterns? What do you stew on time and time again? Have a goal to get to understand the perfectionism.
- Ask yourself, “If I were less perfectionistic what am I worried might happen”? Journal about this. Go deep, get curious. Allow this part to speak and write from the perspective of the perfectionism. Give it a name. And did I say, get curious?!? Let this part speak freely. Writing without censoring is liberating and revealing. Insight first, then comes change.
- Identify the self-critical thoughts which fuel perfectionism. These judgmental thoughts may be towards yourself and others. “I can’t believe I….” “What is wrong with me?” OOF, these can be an endless steam. This is where regular self-compassion practices are beneficial. Encourage yourself to set up a deliberate practice of being kind, authentic, truthful towards yourself. A few times a day, you can sit with yourself and direct kindness inward. This is a buffer towards the criticism.
- The “S” word. Shame. We avoid it and are repulsed when we feel it. It’s awful. AND, speaking about our challenges with a supportive, empathetic person dissolves shame. Find your people and sink into emotional safety when shame or humiliation shows up in the therapy room or with a dear friend. Remember, we ALL struggle in this human journey. Strive for “good enough”. Because…….That is the truth.
- Control. Where do you struggle to let go? What happens inside of you as you think about letting go? Does the mere thought of letting go ignite anxiety? BING, BING, BING. Do you sense the fear? The vulnerability? **That’s the gold.** This is where the work begins and where true freedom awaits. Naming these fears is the first step towards unhooking. What are you afraid you will feel if you relinquish control (at home, work, with your partner, friend?). Remind yourself YOU WILL SURVIVE- just like you always have. Your are building resiliency and authenticity RIGHT NOW.
The gift of freedom is waiting for you. Perfectionism is draining. It is completely unsustainable & is a thief of joy. Therapy can help you to set realistic goals and make positive changes with your mental health and well-being.