As a recovering perfectionist, I’m learning to overcome four obstacles: the importance of breaks and self-care, my worth and productivity, asking for help, and trying new things. As I move toward establishing a healthy version of myself, I’m slowly becoming aware of my needs and better ways to incorporate those needs when I take on projects or goals.
Affirmation: I don’t have to do things perfectly. My best is good enough.
Can you relate to being a perfectionist? How do you feel about being a perfectionist?
What affirmations can you practice to help when you find yourself wanting to achieve perfection?
What are some habits you can change or shift if you believe yourself to have unhelpful perfectionist tendencies?
How often do you think about the ways you speak to yourself? When faced with an unfortunate circumstance, a setback, challenge, or difficult moment how do you respond or reflect on it? How can you become more active in managing or controlling your mental approach to hardships, triggers, or difficulties? The daily dialogues you have with yourself are the most powerful steps in improving your mental well being. Changing how you speak, manifest, affirm or declare ideas and reflections have the potential to alter how you view and approach negativity. Therefore, as we debate, struggle, or even celebrate mentally, self-talk is how we are processing what goes on around us. What is self-talk?
Self-talk is reflective of how we see ourselves in our circumstances. If we feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or depressed, those feelings will continue to overcome us until we get a hold of a more positive and workable view of our current state. How do we flip a negative self-image or view to a workable one?
The Toxic Perfectionist
When first introduced to the phrase “self-talk,” I sat anxiously in a counselor’s office while in college. Unaware of how self-talk affected my daily activities; the ways I spoke about myself reflected my daily thoughts. Quickly noticing the pattern, my counselor intervened every time I bullied my academic and personal progress. She showed me how my language and self-talk sabotaged my mental health. Instead of being proud of my achievements I would comment with phrases such as “I need to do better,” “That’s just who I am,” ” I’m failing,” I’m not good enough,””I have too much to do, but I feel like I can’t do it,” what’s wrong with me?” “I have to finish,” I have to fix myself.”
The more negativity I fed myself, the more I was unable to see a workable view of my anxious and depressive thoughts. My anxiety and depression continued to build because of the continuous negative self-talk I grew up maintaining. I fed my urge to remain the best; I pushed myself past my limits, forced myself to finish everything, added more than I needed to most of the time, and did not accept any grades under an A-. I was a toxic perfectionist.
Now that I’m aware of the dangers of negative self-talk, I work more diligently and actively to flip, switch, and change how I approach overwhelming situations. I think twice about how I view working, writing, and accepting new opportunities (since I’m no longer in school). I make sure I’m being more gentle and kind to myself in general as well. In order to maintain an approachable and more workable stance to challenges, I am changing how I see myself in each moment. I see myself in power and not in defeat. I see what I can do instead of what I can’t.
Here are some ways you too can switch up and subdue your mental bully by changing phrases you may think of everyday:
Try to manipulate and change your mental language in order to further improve your mental health for yourself too. What are some phrases you can change to better approach a difficult or challenging situation? How can you control or manage the situation better by the ways you think and see yourself in it? What does your self-talk look like now that you are switching it up?
Since I was a little girl I’ve been a perfectionist. The way I colored in the lines or how my homework had to be neat all the time, showed how hard I was on myself to be my best and do my best. I was tough on myself at a young age. My grades had to be perfect. I was my worst critic and worse enemy. These moments created the negative self-talk habits that eventually evolved into anxiety (but that’s my other story).
Everyone who knew me was always so surprised at how hard I worked or how much effort I put into things even if that much work wasn’t necessary. I always pushed myself to the limit and challenged myself to be the best I can. This mindset wasn’t always healthy or helpful for me. That five page paper that was supposed to be two pages or those four page notes that was supposed to be one or two was how much more time I put into things I didn’t need to, but let me get to the point. How hard I worked and how much energy I put into the most basic things created in me a monster of perfectionist tendencies that didn’t allow for me to be compassionate to myself.
Tough Love and Anger
As I got older I began meeting people (i.e teachers and religious leaders) who believed in using tough love to get across to others. Their lack of soft compassion made me even more hard on myself and more angry that I should be better and doing better. This made me hate them for not seeing how much work I put into things that I did. Phrases like “what happened?”,”You should have done better”, “this is not like you”, you’ll be okay”,”toughen up and do better” and “get better because people are watching you” became extremely toxic to the already monster of perfectionism that drove me crazy daily. I became angry and frustrated. People who used tough love around me made me avoid them, prohibiting me in learning self- love and compassion. I was always on myself and didn’t know how to slow down and rest. When I was struggling, I didn’t know how to tell others. I would convince myself that I’m always supposed to be okay and ready all the time.
While I did have supportive people in my life, those who used tough love weren’t as effective even if they had good intentions. I appreciate how much I learned about myself, however, though the bumpy roads of my childhood and teen years though those people who showed me tough love.
Moral of the Story: Takeaways
Be kind to yourself and others and also show your children that it’s OK to fail. Learning and growing with your failures is important in self-development. I wasn’t accepting of failure and that made me into the perfectionist monster I was. Because I wasn’t compassionate to myself, the lack of compassion from others made me angry and frustrated. I didn’t learn how to slow down till later in life. I didn’t learn the word no till I was 22.
Self-care and compassion is important. Be compassionate to yourself. Learn self-worth and slow down when you feel yourself working too much. Being the best isn’t necessary as long as you put in how much effort you can. Put in a healthy amount of effort into task. Your worth and your energy is based on you. Know your worth and put a healthy amount of energy into your daily activities. Be kind to yourself and learn to say to yourself “I did a good job. Now I can rest.”
Also, not everyone reacts positively to tough love so remember to always add compassion and love in your interactions. Some people have daily battles mentally and may take offense to phrases that aren’t helpful in showing them how, what, or when to do better. Be encouraging.