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Are you a perfectionist?

Are you a perfectionist?

My previous blog looked at the question of shame and closely related to this is the concept of perfectionism. Are you a perfectionist? Do you have ridiculously high standards for yourself and for those around you?  Brene Brown , researcher in the area of shame says: “Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimise the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

Why do we feel the need to be perfect?

It can often arise as an attempt to gain safety and support in an unsafe situation but we all have the right to make mistakes and deserve to be loved exactly as we are. We only need to be “good enough” whether as a partner, a parent, a child or an employee. If others expect us to be perfect, that is their problem, not ours.

How can we change?

We cannot change the past, all we can do is forgive our past mistakes. We cannot make the future perfectly safe, we cannot control the uncontrollable. We should avoid comparing ourselves unfavourably to others (and comparing how we feel on the inside to how they appear on the outside) and should instead consider all our positive qualities. We do NOT have to pretend to be happy all the time.

Words like “should” and “ought” should be replaced by “I choose to”. We are “human beings not human doings” and do NOT have to keep ourselves in a state of perpetual busyness or work long hours.  If we were subject to the harsh judgements or name-calling of others in the past, it is important for us to know when it is their critical voices we are still hearing today. Today we are not in danger, there is no rush.

The words of the Leonard Cohen song “Anthem” are worth remembering – they tell us that actually our faults, those small cracks in our otherwise perfect self are where the light gets in – we need them!


The birds they sang at the break of day

Start again I heard them say

Don’t dwell on what has passed away or what is yet to be.

Ah, the wars they will be fought again

The holy dove, she will be caught again, bought, sold and bought again

The dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Need some advice and support?

If you would like to talk over an issue that is troubling you and you would like to talk it over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

Book a counselling session today!


See also: Self Esteem and Perfectionism, Perfectionism and Self Esteem