There is often a correlation between perfectionism and low self esteem. Perfectionists base their self worth upon their level of achievement. If they aren’t successul and achieving, they feel worthless. How sad is that? They find the concept of seeing themselves as worthy just be existing completely alien.
So they continually strive to achieve. There is nothing wrong with ambition but with perfectionists, they never ‘arrive’ at that place where they feel fulfilled. Either, they set their targets too high and fail. This leaves them feeling bad and self critical. Sometimes, they do achieve their goals but a perfectionist will then tend to assume the goal was too easy. They will dismiss easy successes and set new harder goals. This ultimately leaves them feeling that they are never good enough, hence the low self esteem.
What a horrid rat race to be in. It’s kind of like seeing a rat in a maze, going through the same passageways and hitting their head against the same dead end each time…
Underlying a perfectionist’s behaviour is the feeling of failure. They work so hard to avoid failure yet they fear being exposed as failures constantly. As a result, many perfectionists suffer from high anxiety and sometimes depression as well.
They procrastinate often as they set such high standards for themselves that they fear not being able to achieve them.
How to break the cycle
Focus on who you are, not what you do
What qualities do you have that make you a good person? Are you patient, kind, tolerant? Look at your personal characteristics that make up the person you are rather than focusing on what you have achieved.
Think about your old age
When you are older, you will be more likely to have photos up of your friends, family and pets. You won’t have photos up of your degrees, houses and cars. remember what is important – relationships and experience so material possessions.
We are programmed to always want more but this doesn’t lead to happiness.
What is success to you? Is it power and status? Shift your focus to friendships and connections with others. This is where true happiness lies. For some, success is wealth and status and for others success is fulfilling relationships. Research has shown that people who focus on experiences and positive connections with others are far happier that the ‘Type A’ personalities who are very goal orientated.
Try something different
If you are a perfectionist, try making a few errors. Send an email with spelling mistakes in it. Cut corners where you can. Show yourself that people won’t like you any less. Challenge the idea that failure is a bad thing. As long as you keep trying, there is no failure only lessons to be learned. When you quit trying altogether, that is closer to failure.
Stop the self criticism
Practise self compassion and treat yourself as you would someone you cared about. We all make mistakes. Embrace the idea of being clumsy and imperfect. You are human – accept it.