Confessions from a Recovered Perfectionist

You know the saying, “It takes one to know one”? Well, I would bet that some of you struggle with perfectionism—even though you might not even recognize it.

The thing about perfectionism is that it is often well-hidden behind the guise of what we might think of as having very high standards. While I think high standards and living a dignified life are noble characteristics. But when people need to manicure everything they do, chances are it’s a cover for something else going on inside of themselves that is painful—and they don’t want anyone to know about it.

I understand this—completely.

Perfectionism is a Cover-Up

For many years, I was caught up in an exhausting cycle of always looking perfect and dedicating myself to hard work. But through therapy, I learned that my excessive behaviors were a way of compensating for how insecure, unlovable, and damaged I felt on the inside from the traumatic experiences I survived as a child.

As I have learned more about how perfectionism can take hold, I know that not all perfectionists come from truly traumatic backgrounds. For example, if your parents tended to be more critical and scrutinizing, it can be hard to get their voices out of your head. This can drive behaviors that stem from not feeling like you’re good enough as an adult.

With perfectionism, “perfect” is never good enough because your ability to find fault with even the most minute thing has no end point. And, at its core, perfectionism may be driven by depression and/or anxiety (check and check!), but it’s often missed because it’s usually masked by achievement, appearance, possessions, and/or status.

Perfectionism may be driven by depression or anxiety, but it’s often missed because it’s usually masked by achievement, appearance, possessions, or status.. Click To Tweet

6 Realistic Thinking Strategies to Overcome Perfectionism

As I worked through my issues from the past and came to terms with my own unhealthy perfectionism, I accumulated a toolbox of realistic thinking strategies to help me push past the self-criticism I was prone to when something I did wasn’t perfect.

Although now I am much more lenient on myself with any perceived shortcomings, I still use these when I have those moments of self-doubt.

I think these 6 practices will help you too:

  1. To get a reality check, look at the big picture and ask yourself questions like these:
    • Ultimately, how much does this really matter?
    • Will anyone die because it’s not right?
    • Is the world going to stop now?
  2. Adopt a growth mindset. Instead of saying, “I failed at this,” say “I learned from this, and I know I will do better next time.”
  3. Use positive self-statements or mantras. For instance, instead of being mad at myself for having a lethargic workout when I’m training for something, I simply remind myself that I did the best I could with all that I have going on.
  4. Challenge your automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). When you put yourself down or say unkind things in your head, you need to ask yourself these questions about the negative thoughts:
    • Is it true?
    • Can I absolutely know it’s true?
    • How do I feel when I think this thought?
    • Who would I be without the thought?
    • Then turn your original thought to its opposite and see if that thought isn’t actually truer.
  5. Focus on the process of your goal and not the outcome. Ultimately, the journey is more important than the destination because of all that you gain and learn along the way.
  6. Before you start any task or goal, be mindful about practicing self-respect. What this means is don’t beat yourself up if the outcome isn’t perfect. You did your best and that’s good enough. Period!

 For more inspiration, order my newest book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer.

 If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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