6 Signs Your Perfectionism Is Hurting, Not Helping

woman being hard on self

You know that saying, "You're your own worst enemy"? Unfortunately, most of us take it to heart far more than that other well-worn cliché, "Be your own best friend."


"Women tend to be more in touch with their emotions than men, and that cuts across the whole array -- happy, sad, angry, and feeling inadequate," explains Yvonne Thomas, PhD, a Los Angeles–based psychologist whose specialties include self-esteem and relationships.

And when you're trying to be Superwoman -- juggling kids, your SO, friendships, work, pets, PTA crap, doctor appointments, dinner menus, trips to the gym, etc. -- "how can you not get overwhelmed at times?" asks Thomas.

But some of us have a harder time bouncing back. Instead, we experience feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, and just feeling "less than," which makes all the things we need to do even more challenging.

Here are six signs that you're not allowing yourself to be imperfect -- that is, human -- and you're beating yourself up for it.

1. Your relationships are taking a hit. When you live and die by your to-do list, and it's several pages long, "your relationships suffer," Thomas points out. "How can you have time for your friends and family when you're running on fumes? There's only so much of you to go around."

2. You can't remember the last time you had "Me Time." You want to go to the gym but ... you're too busy. You and your partner want to have a date night but ... something always comes up. If the idea of simply blow-drying your hair seems unrealistic, you're not practicing enough self-care.

"The quality of your life is being compromised," says Thomas. "And because of that, you're probably also irritable, moody, and never feel good enough."

More from The Stir: 10 Ways to Quiet the Guilt of Not Being Able to Do It All

3. You don't appreciate your accomplishments. Thomas frequently asks her clients with perfectionistic tendencies to imagine climbing a mountain. Once they've made that arduous journey to the summit, how long do they give themselves at the top to appreciate the amazing thing they've achieved?

"'Very little' is what I hear over and over," says Thomas. "Instead of savoring the view, they're already going on to climb the next mountain."

4. And you don't want someone else appreciating your achievements either. When someone compliments you on making a work project look easy, do you say thanks and let that appreciation sink in?

Or do you roll your eyes and point out allll the things you could have done faster/easier/better? "If a person responds to their own victories by quickly noticing how they're not good enough, that's a huge sign [that they're being too hard on themselves]," says Thomas. 

5. You've got to be doing something -- All. The. Time. When you go, go, go, "you're not being realistic," Thomas says. "How much time in the day do you really have?"

Plus, there will be a cost. Like not sleeping well or eating healthy foods. You're encouraging your body to stay in constant "fight or flight" mode, which isn't doing your perception of what you need to and can accomplish any favors.

6. Your kids are picking up on your unhealthy habits. Heard your son call himself an idiot because he missed an easy math prob? Or your daughter exclaim that she's overscheduled herself again and is too stressed?

"Kids are so much more perceptive than we think," says Thomas. "And they don't necessarily have to hear you say, 'I'm five minutes late! This is horrible!' They can pick up on negative self-talk just by watching you and the nonverbal cues you give."

If you recognized these six signs all too well, take a moment to step back and ask yourself, "Why am I so hard on myself? Who am I trying to please?"

"These feelings [of not being good enough] can be merciless, but you can get out of the cycle," reassures Thomas.

Consider seeing a therapist to help you work through the deeper reasons you feel so inadequate -- and put them to rest once and for all.



Image via Juan Nel/Shutterstock

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