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5 tips to overcome perfectionism 

A few months ago, I gave birth to my first baby, a precious little girl named Joan. As a new mother, I’ve been trying to learn all I can about how to care for my little one. This has included purchasing lots of baby books, frantic late night internet searches, frequent doctors visits, desperate calls to my mother, seeking advice from friends, and lots of tears when things don’t go right.  

After Joan was born, I noticed other women with multiple children who seemed to be handling everything with ease, while for me, simply getting Joan in her in her car seat and leaving the house felt like a massive undertaking. To make things worse, from very early on Joan was often inconsolable. She would cry for hours and wouldn’t sleep, and nothing I did seemed to help. I remember having a conversation with my husband about how inadequate I felt and about how much I was struggling.  

I noticed I was in a similar self-judging situation that many of my clients find themselves in. Fortunately, I’ve had the privilege of helping both women and men stuck in self-judgment let go of their internal critic and develop a sense of worthiness and self-love. This experience gave me the opportunity to once again apply this knowledge in my own life. Here are five of the tips I use in my practice to help clients overcome perfectionism and develop an authentic sense of worthiness.  

  1. Check your self-talk: Have you ever considered that your thoughts are an ongoing conversation you have with yourself? This ongoing narrative impacts the way we feel and what we think about ourselves, whether we realize it or not. What are you telling yourself? Are some of these messages self-deprecating or self-judging? If so, pay attention to what you are telling yourself about yourself and intentionally decide to disengage with this line of thinking.  
  2. Stop comparing: Theodore Roosevelt said,“Comparison is the thief of joy,” and he was right. So why do we do it? It usually stems from a feeling of lack, which can lead to the trap of trying to determine our own worth by evaluating ourselves in relation to others. We all know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, but implementing this tip takes consistent effort and practice. Oftentimes our negative thoughts about ourselves come from comparing a deficit in us to a strength in others. It’s tempting to compare, but it’s not worth sacrificing happiness. When you find yourself comparing, take a look at tip #4 and you will probably realize that comparing yourself to others is not in line with your beliefs about where worthiness comes from.  
  3. Practice self-compassion: I often find that my clients are their own worst critics. When they have a hard time with letting go of self-judgment I ask them how they would respond to a friend or loved one if they were in a similar situation. Would they say the things to this person they have been saying to themselves? Would they come to the same conclusions about this person that they have come to about themselves? Then I ask them to take what they would tell this person and have them repeat this back to themselves. This helps to shift the internal narrative and adjust self-talk.
  4. Examine your beliefs about your own worth: I frequently ask my clients what they believe gives a person worth and value, and it becomes apparent that how they have been evaluating their own worth is not in line with what they believe. Do you allow yourself to feel like you are enough, and that you are worthy of self-love? Or, are you trying to earn your own worth by what you do? If you find that your beliefs about worth and the measuring stick you’ve been using to judge yourself do not align, its time to make some adjustments. Remember that you are a human being, not a human doing.    
  5. Patience, practice, and forgiveness: Moving from a place of self-judgment to a place of self-love takes time. Be patient with yourself and forgive yourself when you find you have fallen back into old habits.

 

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Written by Tiffany Winegar, MS, LAMFT

Tiffany Winegar is a therapist at the American Fork Center for Couples and Families. With a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Brigham Young University, she specializes in couple’s therapy.

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