Category: Perfectionism

perfectionist

Meet the Perfectionist — Is This You?

I find that many of my clients (often unknowingly!) suffer from Perfectionism.

Confession: it’s easy for me to spot in others because it is something that struggled with for most of my childhood and into my late twenties. I have done a lot of work to unravel the tightly wound persona of the perfectionist (and it’s still a work in progress).

So what is perfectionism, and why does it matter?

  • Perfectionism can result in a rigid mindset, where the expectations do not fit with the situation.
  • Perfectionists can only like themselves when they do something well.
  • Perfectionists are so self-critical and hard-driving that they push themselves beyond what is reasonable.
  • The perfectionist’s greatest fear is being exposed as incompetent.

These traits are problematic because they create significant stress and pressure in the perfectionist’s life and can cause  a cascade of physical, mental and emotional problems.

If you are a person who struggles with anxiety, addiction, or trauma then this sneaky persona may be at play.

The perfectionist is all wrapped up with attachment to certainty and control. In theory, if you can control your environment and circumstances, then you will be safe. (This is what the perfectionist believes, at least). And it makes biological sense! If you have experienced trauma (major or minor), then your primal brain has learned to try and control things as much as possible so that you don’t have to experience that trauma again. It is a survival mechanism, designed to keep you safe.

Once you begin to recognize and identify the patterns of perfectionism, then you can consciously choose to act in more empowering and productive ways.

The problem with a perfectionist mentality is that it stomps out happiness, joy, and spontaneity. The perfectionist has adopted a rigid way of thinking that is driven by the pressure to be perfect and do things perfectly.

As a perfectionist, you believe that you have to earn your worth and value as a person. Your identity is equal to what you have accomplished or achieved. When your self-esteem and identity are attached to these external factors, then anxiety and depression can result. Your self-esteem will rise and fall along with whatever you attach it to.

A common example I see with many of my female clients is with weight. Self-esteem is attached to the number on the scale, thus creating an emotional roller coaster ride from hell.

This creates an addictive cycle, driven by the pressure to “get it right.” This pressure can be so great that it takes over your life. You make it more important than your relationships or enjoyment of life. You put being productive at work or achieving your goal weight above your significant other, your friends, and taking care of yourself. This creates isolation and further anxiety and depression for the perfectionist.

As a perfectionist, you may also have to use food, substances, shopping, or work to numb yourself from your real feelings. This is how you effectively crush your ability to experience life fully. You attempt to carefully control what you feel and how much you feel it.

This is a lot of work — it’s exhausting!

You can see now that perfectionist thinking is a slippery slope. It was designed to keep you safe, yet it has unhelpful consequences that can take over your life.

Luckily, with practice and intention, you can let go of the perfectionist way of thinking. You can undo the unsupportive mental habits you’ve developed and create new (healthy!) ones.

I am a self-proclaimed Recovering Perfectionist, and I can help you on your path to recovery. I know what it’s like because I’ve been there.

I can help you see your blind spots because they were once my own. We often think that we need to push ourselves in order to be successful, but that’s simply not true! Once you open up and let go of what’s out of your control, you allow your creativity and passion to flourish. It’s a beautiful thing!

Are you a perfectionist? Take the free quiz here!

 

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The Four (Surprising!) Anxiety-Provoking Personas and How to Recognize Them

Psychologist Edmund Bourne identifies the four most common negative self-talk “personas” related to anxiety. Do you recognize any of these four anxiety-provoking personas in yourself? Or maybe you’ve acted out ALL of them, at some point in your life.

The Four Anxiety-Provoking Personas are:

  1. The Worrier
  2. The Critic
  3. The Victim
  4. The Perfectionist

The worrier: You may relate to this one all too easily. The worrier is preoccupied with what could happen or go wrong. Worry is a largely unproductive thought pattern, yet we (as humans) are addicted to it. In many Buddhist and Eastern traditions, worry is seen as one of the roots of suffering. I would have to agree.

The critic: Ah yes, the critic. I have had some hard talks with my inner critic over the years. If you have a strong critic, you know that it likes to steal the show (and your happiness along with it). Nothing is ever good enough for the critic. Sometimes the critic and the perfectionist walk hand-in-hand (read about the perfectionist below).

The victim: The victim is pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t personally identify with the victim persona, I’m guessing that you can quickly think of someone who does. The victim is a part I found myself playing a lot in my younger years. It takes a lot of work to shift from the victim into the empowered adult.

The perfectionist: Oh yes, my favorite! The perfectionist is a sneaky one. Often times, people with a perfectionistic mindset are unaware that this persona is in action. They may easily recognize the other personas within themselves, but the perfectionist remains hidden. This is because perfectionists see doing things ‘just right’ or ‘exceeding expectations’ as the norm that everyone should strive for. The perfectionist believes your sense of self-worth must be earned and reinforced. Doesn’t everyone feel that way? (Thinks the perfectionist).

It’s easy to see how these personas contribute to anxiety. When you often have catastrophic or critical thoughts, it’s not easy to be emotionally balanced. These pervasive personas may be continually robbing you of joy, happiness, and peace of mind.

The good news is: with awareness, you can identify, name and change these pesky parts of the psyche. You can move forward with your life, and experience freedom from anxiety.

 

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