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How I Learned I am a Self-Criticizing Perfectionist

Something I was thinking about this morning is why it feels so difficult for me to show up and speak up.


I find myself opening my phone to post or record and all these thoughts just flood in: Do I really have the right to speak on the topics I am interested in? Am I just going to sound like a smarta** or worse....will people think I am just a hypocrite?


I feel flooded by the need to show up 'perfectly' 'poised' 'put together'. I start to compare myself to others and their success vs mine. I start to get caught in this trap of believing I have nothing really to offer and so I just stay back.


Why??


I approach so many tasks, roles, jobs, etc. with this need to have it be perfect and free of errors or holes so I can't be criticized or judged. Which means, I am not very consistent and fearful to DO the things I love. I start to avoid experiences or pursuits because it can trigger anxiety and insecurity, but that leaves me frustrated and depressed. It is a very strange cycle.


Again...why??


Well, I did what any curious 30 something year old would do when faced with behavioral patterns they don’t understand…I googled it.


How am I a perfectionist? I never would have called myself a ‘perfectionist’ because my house isn’t perfectly tidy and organized. My handwriting is terrible. There are a lot of things I don’t care about, but I realized that I very much care about how I am perceived, how I show up, how I perform, and how I can help/influence others. But really, I just don’t want to be criticized, judged and I want to be accepted.


What I learned is that I am a self-criticizing perfectionist.


I read a scientific journal that did a study on this:


“Studies have established perfectionism as a multidimensional construct consisting of two higher-order dimensions, which we refer to as personal standards (PS) perfectionism and self-critical (SC) perfectionism. PS perfectionism entails the setting of and striving for excessively high standards and goals for the self. SC perfectionism involves constant and harsh self-scrutiny and critical self-evaluation of one's own behavior, and continuous worry about others' approval, criticism, and expectations.”


Moroz , M., & Dunkley, D. M. (2019). Self-critical perfectionism, experiential avoidance, and depressive and anxious symptoms over two years: A three-wave longitudinal study. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 112, 18–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2018.11.006


This opened my eyes to the loop I find myself stuck in…a ‘gap’ minded self-talk that tears me down and holds me hostage instead of allowing myself to embrace imperfection, show up as the kind and loving woman I am, and just help others who are struggling feel less alone. It was a tough pill to swallow but handling the truth and breaking the cycle was necessary in order to move forward.

 

The best way to break the cycle is to exercise the muscle of ‘doing it scared’.

 

Understand what holds you back, reframe how you are measuring success for yourself, and repeat phrases that help you change your mindset.


Which is funny because I have done SO many things scared. I have embraced a lot of difficult and trying times over the last 30 years. Maybe I don’t have the academic background (yet!) to appear like I ‘know my stuff’ or what I am talking about. But, I do have a lot of lived experience, the work I have done within myself to grow and heal, and can speak to the power of that change. I also care about helping others do this too.


Unresolved childhood trauma carries into adulthood and impacts us greatly. Difficulties in adulthood shape and mold our thinking. It is easy for me to sit here and just put all the blame on a lot of external factors that have impacted me, HOWEVER, I am responsible for me. If I want to heal, I must do the work. If I want to think and feel differently, it is on me to change.

 

Honestly, at times I feel that I am a big fat fraud. Society only rewards success and I look at my life and think….who the heck would want to listen to me?! Haha! But, I have achieved a lot and been successful in many ways.


I had teenage parents, have been dealing with an incarcerated parent since I was 10, moved a lot, moved schools, felt emotionally alone and empty but was externally positive and happy, got married, had a child, got divorced, moved across the country, found love again, got laid off from my job, and find myself wondering ‘what next’. I have been creative, persistent, resilient and hopefully.


Not sure if any of this resonates with you, but I found it all very eye opening and wanted to share my thoughts.

 

I am working on building a community and membership around journaling, mantras/affirmations, and inner child work. It wouldn’t replace therapy, but I want to offer women an affordable option to connect with like-minded women working through similar struggles to them.



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