Perfectionism makes us feel inadequate
Perfectionism – the relentless pursuit of being flawless in an effort to prove our worth and avoid criticism — adds unnecessary stress and pressure to our already demanding lives. When we strive for perfection rather than excellence, we’re never satisfied. We always feel deficient because we’re comparing ourselves to an impossible standard. We feel flawed and inadequate, so we try to prove our worth through achievements, always demanding more of ourselves in order to feel worthy. As a result, we end up compromising our physical and mental health through excessive self-criticism, overworking, and avoiding self-care.
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How affirmations or positive self-talk can help reduce perfectionism
Perfectionist thinking drives our perfectionist, controlling, inflexible behavior. It’s based on a distorted belief that “I’m not enough and the only way to be enough is to accomplish more and be perfect”.
As I wrote in The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism, “Perfectionists tend to see things as black or white; they define themselves and their actions as absolutes. For example, “I’m a success or a failure”; there’s no middle ground to a perfectionist. Clearly, no one wants to be whatever negative label you’re assigning to yourself (failure, loser, fat, stupid, lazy), so the only alternative, according to this way of thinking, is to impose more pressure and higher demands and become intolerant of mistakes, imperfections, or being anything less than the top performer.” (page 11, New Harbinger Publications, 2019)
As you can see, changing our distorted and negative thoughts and beliefs is an important part of overcoming perfectionism.
Affirmations help us focus on healthier, more realistic beliefs about ourselves and the world. They can help us build new thinking patterns that reflect self-acceptance, mental flexibility, resiliency, realistic expectations, and the importance of self-care.
Affirmations for perfectionists
- My worth isn’t based on my achievements.
- My health is more important than my performance/accomplishments.
- I will give myself grace when I make a mistake.
- Mistakes are growth opportunities.
- I value learning more than being right.
- Everyone makes mistakes.
- I choose to enjoy the process, not just focus on the outcome.
- I don’t have to do things perfectly.
- Excellence is not the same as perfection.
- Flaws are not inadequacies.
- I’m more than my appearance (or grades or salary or any external marker of success).
- I’m doing my best and that’s all I can ask of myself.
- I don’t have to be perfect for people to like/accept/love me.
- Relationships need authentic connection, not perfection.
- Perfection is unrealistic.
- My opinion matters.
- It’s okay to say no and set boundaries.
- I accept myself just as I am.
- I accept others just as they are.
- My best effort isn’t the same as perfection.
- There’s more than one “right” way to do something.
- When things don’t go as planned, I will adjust my expectations.
- I can’t control everything and that’s okay because I have the resources to cope.
- I don’t have to do it all.
- Asking for help is a good thing.
- Asking for help reflects strength and courage.
- It’s healthy to relax and have fun.
- Everyone needs to rest, including me.
- Having fun isn’t a reward you have to earn.
- Slowing down helps me recharge and be thoughtful about my commitments and expectations.
- Good enough really is good enough.
- Done is better than perfect.
- Progress, not perfection.
- I’m imperfect and I’m still enough.
How to use positive affirmations
In the beginning, affirmations can feel uncomfortable because they’re a different way of thinking. Usually, they will become more comfortable the more you use them. However, if you struggle to believe some of the affirmations it can be a good opportunity to ask yourself some questions and explore why the affirmation feels untrue. For example, if you don’t believe that asking for help is a good thing, you can ask yourself why you believe this, where did this belief come from, is it helpful, are there any exceptions. You might find that you believe part of the affirmation or that you’d like to shift your thinking in this direction even though you feel some resistance at the moment.
Affirmations also make great prompts for journaling. You can simply write down the affirmations to reinforce them or you can write about what thoughts and feelings come up as you say the affirmations to yourself.
Affirmations can be a helpful tool; they serve to remind us of our goals and how we want to think. However, nothing works for everyone and it’s important to remember that affirmations alone will not build self-esteem or cure perfectionism – but they can be a good place to begin.
So, give these affirmations for perfectionism a try. I think they will help you reduce your perfectionist thinking and tendencies over time.