Posts from the ‘Perfectionism’ category

Shame is a very difficult, universal human emotion. We all feel it. And it’s normal to not like feeling it. So naturally we resist shame when it arises in our lives. The same way we close up over an open wound or the muscles around an injured part of the body tighten or clench.

Shame is different than guilt, where guilt says “I did something bad” shame says, “I am bad.” Nobody really likes to talk about shame, because the very nature of shame is to keep it secret. Brene Brown talks about the three conditions necessary to “grow” shame: Secrecy, Silence, and Judgement. Don’t talk about it, lock it in the vault, and judge yourself harshly for it.

But self compassion researchers, Chris Germer and Kristen Neff have found that despite shame being a challenge for most of us, that many paradoxes exist when we look a little closer. These include:

1. Shame feels blameworthy, but it is an innocent emotion. The need to be loved and belong is one of the strongest desires that human beings have. Shame makes us believe that some part or all of us is unloveable, that we are too flawed to be accepted by others. So shame actually comes from our innocent desire to belong, to be approved of, and to be accepted. If we can have compassion for our desire to belong, it can take us out of the self-blame story.

2. Shame makes us feel separate and alone, but it connects us to the rest of humanity. The majority of humans all across the world, no matter what their differences experience shame. Despite being something that makes us “feel” different, it actually indicates that we are “more alike” other humans than we are different.

3. Shame feels old and all-encompassing, but it is a temporary state- like all emotions- that reflects just a part or who we are. Emotions come and go. But because we resist shame and don’t like to feel it, it can feel like “why is this still here?! What’s wrong with me?” When really, shame will always be there, just like all the other emotions that come and go.

So next time you find yourself in shame, see if reflecting on any one of these paradoxes helps you to feel some compassion for your shame, or perhaps less alone and more connected to your humanity.

Perfectionism is a very sneaky trait that a lot of people who have anxiety and depression struggle with (sometimes unknowingly). Perfectionism involves a lot of striving. It is a form of black-and-white or all-or-nothing thinking where if we haven’t met our perfectionistic standard, then we feel like we’ve failed. This failure is usually taken quite personally and tends to lead to bad mood and more negative thoughts (i.e., racing or ruminative thoughts).

David Burns shares several types of perfectionism that can lead to low mood:

1. Moralistic Perfectionism: “I must not forgive myself if I have fallen short of any goal or personal standard.”

2. Performance Perfectionism: “To be a worthwhile person, I must be a great success at everything I do.”

3. Identity Perfectionism: “People will never accept me as a flawed and vulnerable human being.”

4. Emotional Perfectionism: “I must always try to be happy. I must control my negative emotions and never feel anxious or depressed.”

5. Romantic Perfectionism: “I must find a perfect mate and always feel infatuated with him or her.”

6. Relationship Perfectionism: “People who love each other should never fight or feel angry with each other.”

7. Appearance Perfectionism: “I look ugly because I’m _____ (self-judgement here).

Taking a little deeper look under these beliefs can be helpful to see what the fear is that is driving them. Ask yourself what is the thing I am worried happening if I don’t achieve my perfectionist standards? Is it a fear of rejection? Of disapproval?

A helpful technique is to use is the IF/THEN technique….
IF this is true about me (worst fear), THEN it would mean __________ (this about me, my relationships, my future).

Now that you’ve identified the sneaky little fear driving your perfectionistic beliefs and tendencies, you will want to ask yourself the following:

1) Is this helping me to believe this? What are the consequences, both positive and negative of believing this?

2) Is it realistic to think this way? Does it work? Is it sustainable?

3) What would happen if I confronted my fear? Would the world really come to an end if I changed this attitude?

4) Could I start to look at this aspect in shades of grey rather than just black or white?

David Burns offers GREAT Cognitive-Behavioural techniques like this. If you are interested and want to read more, I recommend his book “The Feeling Good Handbook”