Perfectionism is the relentless pursuit of being flawless in an effort to prove our worth and avoid criticism. It adds unnecessary stress and pressure to our already demanding lives. When we strive for perfection rather than excellence, we’re never satisfied. We always feel deficient because we’re comparing ourselves to an impossible standard. We feel flawed and inadequate, so we try to prove our worth through achievements, always demanding more of ourselves in order to feel worth. As a result, we end up compromising our physical and mental health through excessive self-criticism, overworking and avoiding self-care.
Perfectionist thinking drives our perfectionist, controlling, inflexible behaviour. It’s based on a distress belief that “I’m not enough and the only way to be enough is to accomplish more and be perfect”.
Perfectionists tend to see things as black or white. They define themselves and their actions as absolutes. For example, “I’m a success or a failure” There’s no middle ground to a perfectionist. Clearly, no one wants to be whatever negative label you’re assigning to yourself (failed, loser, fat, stupid, lazy), so the only alternative, according to this way of thinking, is to impose more pressure and higher demands and become intolerant of mistakes, imperfections, or being anything less than the top performer.
Affirmations (in psych talk: “helpful self-talk”) help us focus on healthier, more realistic beliefs about ourselves and the world. They can help us build new thinking patterns that reflect self-acceptance, mental flexibility, resiliency, realistic expectations and the importance of self-care.
Here are some for you to reflect on:
In the beginning, affirmations can feel uncomfortable because they’re a different way of thinking. Usually, they will become more comfortable the more you use them. However, if you struggle to believe some of the affirmations, it can be a good opportunity to ask yourself some questions and explore why the affirmation feels untrue. For example, if you don’t believe that asking for help is a good thing, you can ask yourself why you believe this, where did this belief come from, is it helpful, are there any exceptions. You might find that you believe part of the affirmation or that you’d like to shift your thinking in this direction even though you feel some resistance at the moment.
Affirmations can be a helpful tool. They serve to remind us of our goals and how we want to think. However, nothing works for everyone and it’s important to remember that affirmations alone will not build self-esteem or cure perfectionism – but they can be a good place to begin.
Be gentle with yourself – and if you need support, don’t hesitate to reach out.
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