Perfectionism: Today is a great day to make a mistake! 

Perfectionism: Today is a great day to make a mistake! by Elmira Family Chiropractic

Are you afraid of making a mistake? Perhaps failing is your worst nightmare! Well, you and many others likely deal with perfectionism. Perfectionism in psychology, as defined by Stoeber et al. 2010, is a broad personality trait characterized by a person’s concern with striving for flawlessness and perfection and is accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

Although on the outside, perfectionism can seem to be a good thing because the person is trying to do their best, in actuality, they are just concerned with achieving unattainable ideals or unrealistic goals. This constant and never-ending pursuit, makes life like an endless report card on looks or accomplishments and can lead to anxiety, depression, OCD, low self-esteem and poor self-worth. 

In today’s world, where we are graded on our report cards, or how much we get done at the office, or whether we are good parent’s, it is easy to see why people want to do good! No one wants to fail a class or lose their job because they made a mistake. However, reality exists and NO ONE is PERFECT. Let me repeat that again, especially for those who don’t believe me, NO ONE is PERFECT! As it says in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 7:20, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.”

Perfectionism may be used as an armour to protect our self-esteem because we are afraid of getting something wrong and losing status in the eyes of another.

This is a learned response likely due to shame or embarrassment from “failure” earlier in life. We do everything in our power to protect ourselves from feeling ashamed, that feeling of wanting to crawl into a hole so no one can see what is truly inside of us.

Although we all desire success, this orientation towards never making a mistake is toxic because you are focused not on what you can gain by trying, but what you will lose if you make a mistake (negative orientation). Perhaps you don’t believe you are truly capable of being a parent, or you are waiting for someone to find out that you are incapable of your current job, or maybe you don’t believe in unconditional love and are just waiting till you make that final mistake that ends your relationship. 

I get emotional writing this because I am a recovering perfectionist. Perfectionism was my defense against my inner critic, who can be quite harsh at times. How I try to live my life now is not based on fear of what I might lose when (not if) I make a mistake. I have had to reframe mistakes as something positive, which they are! Mistakes allow you to learn and grow, without mistakes you will never take on anything challenging and you will limit your potential in life. 

Be kind to you. Most people would be abhorred with many people’s internal dialogue or self-talk. You would never talk to your friends the way you talk about yourself, so work on speaking to yourself kindly and use words that build up your self-esteem.

So don’t be afraid to fail, it’s where all the growth happens. Today is as good as any to make a mistake.

Dr. Thom

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