Do you often hear yourself say – I’m a perfectionist, I have to be at my best always? If you have, then it is likely that you impose some pressure on yourself. Sometimes, you feel best only if you have met your own standard of perfection. This is called emotional perfectionism.
All of us want to strive towards perfection. It is due to our years’ of conditioning and observation that we have learned this pattern. Our sense of self could be so fragile at times that it could shatter easily when we don’t meet our own standards. Lack of self-compassion during our early years of growth could have a long-lasting effect on our future.
Our self-imposed pressures create anxiety, difficulty to connect and disregard for our feelings. We want to achieve straight A’s, compare our performance with our peers, always stick to deadlines and put up with undue pressure. We want to be one notch higher than others around us. If this does not happen, our ‘tower of perfection’ punishes us. What is this voice of punishment? It is our very own self-critical voice, the inner dialogue. Some examples could be:
- I should never feel sad, scared, inadequate and vulnerable.
- I should never feel depressed or anxious.
- I should just get over this.
- I should always be happy and upbeat.
- I must not let them see how I really feel – they will think I’m losing my grip.
- I need to stay positive because I don’t want to upset my family. They need to believe that I am coping.
- That shouldn’t have bugged me.
These thoughts reflect an unrealistic way of controlling and suppressing our deeper feelings. Over time, they can lead to emotional distancing, out of fear that if we ‘let go’ then we will be overwhelmed by sadness. Applying impossible standards to ‘how we actually feel’ is unhealthy and unfair to ourselves. It is important to try and overcome this with gentleness and compassion. The ability to treat our feelings with kindness is a life-long skill to encourage emotional flexibility. This is a healthy alternative to emotional perfectionism. A few tips to navigate through this are:
- Start with simple reminders like:
- ‘It’s okay, this too shall pass’
- ‘I can handle this’
- ‘It’s okay to feel this way’
- ‘May I be kind with myself in this moment’
- Try to practice mindfulness which is the awareness of our present reality without judgment. It allows room for all emotions without pushing them away or getting enmeshed in them.
- Opening up can feel scary at first but remember that it is usually followed by a sense of relief. So, keep at it, find your safe space and share.
As psychotherapist Maud Purcell puts it: “As human beings we err regularly … Unfortunately, we tend to view errors as failures. We overlook the possibility that the seeds of success are planted within our blunders.”
If you find yourself overwhelmed with emotions, please reach out for professional help. We at LeanonMe will be happy to help you.
AUTHOR: Sneha, Associate Counsellor
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