Often, perfectionism is a defense mechanism that is fueled by childhood trauma and abuse. It can manifest in many ways, such as procrastination, rigid all-or-nothing thinking, toxic comparisons, and negative self-talk.
The desire to be perfect can cause stress, sleeplessness, rumination, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. A therapist can help you find a healthy balance.
Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and triggers is the starting point for finding balance. Self-awareness allows individuals to make informed choices and take action to help them achieve their goals and improve their overall mental health. It also helps them develop meaningful relationships with loved ones, cope with negative feelings such as depression, and live happier lives.
There are many ways to practice becoming more self-aware, including journaling, yoga, and meditation. However, giving yourself time and space to reflect without distraction is essential. Try setting aside 30 quiet, distraction-free minutes daily to focus on yourself and your thoughts. Practicing mindfulness is another excellent way to become more self-aware, as it encourages you to observe your thoughts and feelings nonjudgmentally.
One study on self-awareness aimed to identify the underlying causes of the different outcomes people experience. The researchers identified four main themes and twelve contingent themes of self-awareness and created the Self-Awareness Outcomes Questionnaire (SAOQ).
The most critical factor in fostering self-awareness is an individual’s willingness to do so. This process can be challenging as it requires a person to dig deep inside and examine their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and sense of self. Then, they must be willing to accept and learn from what they discover. In addition, it can be uncomfortable for some to open up and be vulnerable with others.
A therapist can help you work on self-compassion skills to improve your ability to respond to failure healthily. This includes embracing your humanness and recognizing that everyone sometimes makes mistakes or feels sad or anxious. It also involves treating yourself the way you would a friend. For example, if your friend came to you upset because they made a mistake at work, didn’t get accepted into the program they applied to, or couldn’t kick an unhealthy habit, you would probably offer them kindness and support.
The first researcher to define and operationally measure self-compassion says it has three components: self-kindness, recognizing one’s humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness means refraining from harsh, critical internal dialogue. It also means identifying when negative social experiences (e.g., getting rejected from a job interview) are turned into a problematic self-critical internal dialogue and a defensive stance toward others.
The third component of self-compassion is mindfulness, which involves maintaining a non-biased awareness of experiences, even those that are painful, rather than ignoring them or exaggerating their impact. In addition, a therapist for perfectionism can help you develop self-compassion skills, or you can find more than a dozen different practices on Neff’s website. Taking care of yourself by eating well, exercising regularly, and eliminating toxic people is another good way to practice self-compassion.
Reflection involves examining your thoughts and emotions without judgment or bias, and it can be used in many ways. It can be done formally or informally, and it’s often done with the help of prompts and questions, like those found in journaling, productivity planners, or the SMART goal-setting methodology.
When done correctly, self-reflection can allow us to make better decisions and identify what we’re good at and need improvement on, which can help us feel more confident and capable. However, it can also be challenging to do if you’re struggling with emotional baggage or negative patterns of behavior such as self-criticism, anxiety, or comparing yourself to others. This is where a counselor or therapist can help.
Self-reflection can help identify your core values, improve communication skills, and create meaningful goals. It can help you recognize personal responsibility and hold yourself accountable to your commitments. It can enhance relationships by allowing you to be more authentic and genuine in communicating with others.
Using self-reflection to find balance in your life can be challenging, but it’s essential to commit to the process and practice regularly. Try adding a reflective period to your daily routine, whether five minutes in the morning while drinking coffee or 30 minutes each week sitting outside. It may also be helpful to create a quiet environment free of distractions so that you can focus inwardly on your thoughts and feelings.
One of the reasons it can be difficult for perfectionists to find balance is that they are constantly battling their negative self-talk. Their loud inner critic continually screams at them and reminds them of how they fail.
The best way to stop this vicious cycle is to practice self-care. This includes things like getting enough sleep, taking time to relax, and spending time with loved ones. It can also have time to reflect on your thoughts and emotions without judgment. This lets you notice when your thoughts are unhelpful and irrational, which is the first step toward changing them.
Another helpful exercise for those who struggle with perfectionism is learning to recognize when they are catastrophizing. Catastrophizing is negative thinking that focuses on the worst-case scenario and how unlikely it is. This can help you regain a productive mindset by removing some of the fear and anxiety.
Changing perfectionistic thought patterns can be challenging, but it is possible with the help of a professional. A therapist can teach you techniques to challenge all-or-nothing thinking, reduce the negativity in your self-talk, and lift the self-defeating expectations you’ve developed. Try incorporating some of these tips into your life and see how they change your perspective.