Thursday, September 11, 2014

Self-compassion and perfectionism

Do you deal with perfectionism? I do. I often say I'm a "recovering perfectionist," although some days I have to question the recovering part. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brene Brown says perfectionism is about acceptance and earning approval. "Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, we adopt this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it." Oh, yes. I learned that well.

Brown goes on to say, "To overcome perfectionism, we need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities to the universal experiences of shame, judgment, and blame; develop shame resilience; and practice self-compassion." I agree. For me, the work on being more vulnerable is an ongoing task. And self-compassion is such an important piece of that work.

Are you familiar with the term "self-compassion"? I hadn't really heard it until I saw a TED Talk by Dr. Kristin Neff on the subject. Boiled down to its most basic form, self-compassion is about not being so hard on yourself. Treat yourself the same way as you would a dear friend or beloved family member. Encourage rather than criticize yourself. Stop with the self-judgment already.

If you're a perfectionist and could do with a little more self-compassion, choose one thing you can change today. Work on it each day for a month. Remember, it takes a long time to develop new habits. And if you'd like to discuss this topic (with a recovering perfectionist!), I invite you to contact me for a complimentary, no-obligation session.

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