Do You Struggle With Procrastination, Overworking, Or A Fear of Making Mistakes?
Do you have an overwhelming feeling that you are “not good enough?” Does your sense of self-worth depend on meeting very high standards? Perhaps you judge your performance in an all-or-nothing manner, or tend to notice only the negative aspects of your performance. When you do meet a goal, do you convince yourself that it’s no big deal, or that anyone could have done it? Or, perhaps your perfectionism manifests through a tendency avoid, procrastinate, or to check your work repeatedly.
If you fail to meet a standard, do you tend to criticize yourself? Or, perhaps you sometimes don’t even try to achieve your goals at all because the thought of not doing well or making a mistake feels too scary. You may feel that your self-esteem depends on pleasing others or feeling approved of by others. In turn, you may compensate by overworking, which leads to feelings of exhaustion, burnout, or social isolation. You may experience disrupted sleep, poor nutrition, or even anxiety or depression.
While you may desperately want to pursue your goals, you likely crave the tools to do so in a balanced fashion. Regardless of your unique experience of perfectionism, you likely long to accept your imperfect self, to practice self-compassion, and to achieve your goals without fear.
More Women Struggle with Perfectionism Today Than Ever Before
We live in a culture where perfectionism is often viewed as a positive trait among women. In fact, there is tremendous momentum in our society directed towards empowering women to strive to reach achieve ambitious goals in their personal and professional lives.
When a woman works towards her goals in a balanced fashion, such striving for achievement can add great meaning and fulfillment to her life. However, if your goal of “proving yourself” feels all consuming, if you are excessively concerned about making a mistake, or if you often succumb to highly self-critical thinking patterns, you are likely engaging in a maladaptive cycle of perfectionism.
In fact, a recent study published in Psychological Bulletin indicates that today’s women are demanding higher expectations of themselves and attaching more importance to perfection than ever before. This rise in maladaptive perfectionism been linked with several negative outcomes, such as a lack of social support, poor nutrition from excessive dieting, insomnia, and chronic headaches. There are also serious emotional consequences of clinical perfectionism, such as depression, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and eating disorders.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Perfectionism Can Help You Embrace Challenges and Persist in Pursuit of Your Goals.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be a highly efficacious treatment for clinical perfectionism. The goal of cognitive therapy for perfectionism is to help you accomplish realistic goals with less anxiety and fear, while also identifying and re-working the formative experiences that led you to develop perfectionistic attitudes, whether it be a fear of failure, a desire to be loved, or a desire to please others.
In treatment, we will jointly choose your therapy goals, construct a meaningful conceptualization of your unique experience of perfectionism, and to develop a plan for change. Specifically, we will work together to develop a collaborative formulation of the factors that maintain your perfectionism. To do so, we will identify the behaviors and thoughts that keep you locked in your cycle of perfectionism. For example, we may discuss the specific areas of your life in which you push yourself and feel you must excel.
We may also examine the negative consequences of striving and the ways in which your view of yourself as “good enough” is dependent on your achievements. In turn, we may explore whether you may have any particular “rules” that need to be met in order to achieve your standards. Together, we will also examine the consequences of not meeting your standards, with regards to your self-criticism and any unhelpful behaviors you may engage in. Further, we will identify how these behaviors may keep you stuck in a counterproductive cycle of perfectionism.
The intention of our work together is to help you to set goals that are outside of your comfort zone, and to persist in pursuit of those goals even when you feel stuck, exposed, or on the cusp of “failure.” We will honor the pain of falling short of your goals, while also recognizing that failure does not define you,, but rather, can be learned from and translated into future successes. Ultimately, therapy for perfectionism may help you to cultivate a “growth mindset” that will give you the freedom and flexibility to pursue all the creative, professional, and relational endeavors that fulfill you as a whole person.
You may still have questions or concerns about cognitive behavioral therapy for perfectionism…
+ Shouldn’t I be able to fix my perfectionism by myself?
Women often believe that if they are “strong,” then they should be able to cope with the stressors in their lives independently. Often times, however, when women are trying to change a long-term pattern of behaving that is associated with a high level of emotion, it can be very useful to collaborate with someone who can help generate new ideas and alternative perspectives. In cognitive therapy for perfectionism, we will take a collaborative approach to change, which has been found to be more effective than problem solving alone.
+ If I tackle my perfectionism, will it negatively impact my performance?
Many women fear that if they receive therapy, they will lose their drive to achieve. This is not the goal of therapy. Rather, the goal of our work together is to help you develop strategies to pursue and achieve your goals in a new way – in a way that has fewer consequences for your quality of life. After all, wanting to achieve and taking pride in your successes is not problematic – perfectionism becomes problematic when you feel you are never good enough or when you are overly critical of whether your best is “enough.”
+ With my hectic schedule, I'm afraid I don't have time for therapy.
Many women feel as though there’s not enough time in the week to invest in making therapy a consistent part of their routine. However, taking just an hour out of your week to work with a qualified cognitive therapist can provide you with effective techniques that lead to increased relief, resiliency and productivity. If your perfectionism feels maladaptive or isn’t serving you, therapy is an investment that can help. Some women find that even just a few therapy sessions provide useful tools and techniques for them to practice as they continue working on their own.