Almost no one seeks treatment for perfectionism, at least that’s not what brings them to treatment initially. Perfectionism is like that coworker that takes credit for all your work, only you give it all the credit too. Meanwhile, in coping with the shame and guilt brought on by not meeting perfectionism’s impossible standards, your performance often suffers. And when there’s a disappointing outcome, perfectionism gaslights you into thinking you didn’t work hard enough. Starting to sound familiar? Perfectionism has three components of unrealistic standards, having your self-worth tied to those standards, and holding to them despite realizing they’re causing you difficulty. If you’re not yet convinced that perfectionism is a problem, you should know that perfectionism can kill, either slowly through increased rates of health problems, or by suicide.
What to expect from treatment for perfectionism
We might start by helping you recognize your perfectionist behaviours and its harmful impacts, to build motivation for the challenging work ahead. We’ll often explore the function of perfectionism for you and how it developed. We challenge distorted thinking around perfectionism and try to develop more helpful ways of seeing it. We will discuss self-compassion and barriers to practicing self-compassion. Self-compassion is perfectionism’s kryptonite, but many people are too afraid to risk letting go of their self-criticism or might not even know what it sounds like because they never heard it themselves. And what perfectionism doesn’t want you to know is that you can be just as (or more ) effective without all the emotional baggage that perfectionism brings with it. You can keep your (achievable) high standards, so long as you don’t beat yourself up for not meeting them. Our ultimate goal is to modify behaviours that reflect perfectionism and practice (tolerable) imperfection so that you learn that it is safe and sometimes desirable to just be “good enough.”