How Perfectionists Can Give Up Self-Criticism

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Health Assured team

28 March 2017

So many of us feel intense pressures to achieve more, do more, and be more.   We live in a technology-driven society that never stops. We’re constantly bombarded with “my life is perfect” messages on social media. It’s no wonder that so many of us feel like we’re not measuring up.   But what is it that we’re not measuring up to? Perhaps we need to take another look at how we measure our worth. Perhaps achievement, traditional markers of success, and being perfect aren’t the ultimate measures of our worth. Perhaps valuing these things is actually causing us to hate ourselves.   I’m sure you’re intimately acquainted with self-criticism — one of the hallmarks of perfectionism. Perfectionists never feel good enough. We’re never satisfied with our performance or even our effort. We create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and when we inevitably fail to meet them, it serves as evidence that we’re not as good as everyone else. Perfectionists meet this sense of failure with harsh self-criticism.   You might think being hard on yourself is necessary, as if it will motivate you to do better. But criticism usually leads to shame, not to greater motivation. In other words, criticism makes us feel worse about ourselves and we can’t do better when we’re cutting ourselves down.   Many of us find it easier to love others than to love ourselves. Sometimes we’re truly quite awful to ourselves. We subject ourselves to a harsh inner critic, unhealthy relationships, toxic substances, and self-mutilation because we’re convinced that we’re different and inferior, instead of that we’re flawed, but completely lovable people.   You’re probably hyper-aware of your faults and shortcomings, but quick to dismiss your strengths and positive personality traits. Perfectionism gives you an inaccurate perception of yourself. You’re internally obsessed with your imperfections and failures while trying to present a perfect persona to the rest of the world. This inevitably leads to a negative view of yourself and harsh self-criticism.   Excerpt from Psych Central, read the full article here.   Mental health – coping techniques More resilient people recognise the warning signs of too much pressure and are able to effectively employ mental coping strategies to deal with the circumstances when the pressure gets too high. They can do this because they are able to recognise the signals their bodies give them that they’re under stress and not reacting well:
  • Their feelings and emotions
  • Changes in their behaviour and attitude
  • Changes in their appearance
And they are then very good at responding appropriately. This is because they have already developed the ability to:
  • Live a more balanced life
  • Talk and seek help from others when it’s needed
  • Employ positive and proactive coping strategies
  Living a more balanced life You may be experiencing stress because your life has become out of balance. You may be spending too much time and energy on work or on caring for others, at the expense of your own health and well-being. The following strategies can help you to live a more balanced and stress-free life:
  • Delegate or share your responsibilities at work and at home
  • Avoid difficult colleagues, family members, and acquaintances
  • Learn to be more assertive – SAY NO
  • Participate in regular exercise
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Never take on more than you know you can cope with
  • Organise your time better to get as much done as possible
  • Listen to music or relaxation tapes
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Schedule time for YOU
  Accepting support from others One of the most effective things we can do when we are stressed is to talk to a friendly listener who remains calm and listens in a way that makes us feel understood. Studies show that people who are active socially are most capable of dealing with stressful situations and major illnesses. To help reduce stress, develop a network of friends and family members to turn to when stress threatens to overwhelm you. If you are a naturally private or independent person, it might seem challenging to build a support system, but in order to cultivate a circle of friends, you need to take the first step. Your efforts to create a strong social network will serve you well when you are confronted with serious issues and pressures. So:
  • Think of individuals who care about you and with whom you can share your most personal thoughts
  • Reach out to the people you feel close to
  • Call them; make dates to see them; be open and available to them.
  Developing proactive & positive coping skills Your attitude has a lot to do with whether events and occurrences produce a feeling of stress. Once you admit that you are not able to control everything, you will be better equipped to handle unexpected situations. Stress management comes down to finding ways to change your thinking and manage your expectations. Other important ways to adjust your attitude include:
  • Being realistic – shed the Superman/ Superwoman image.
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself or of others.
  • Being flexible. Give in sometimes.
  • Rehearsing/preparing for work and life situations
  • Thinking positively – look at each stressful situation as an opportunity to improve your life
  • Don’t take work problems home or home problems to work
  • Laugh each day – rely on humour to relieve tension

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