Perfectionism & People Pleasing

Perfectionism and people-pleasing are treacherous traps, in which we place all of our self-worth into the hands of others. At their core, perfectionism and people-pleasing reflect a relentless drive to meet impossible standards and an unyielding desire to gain the approval of those around us. The root of these behaviors is a deep-seated need to be judged positively by others, transforming our very existence into a performance aimed at pleasing others. Ironically, while they stem from feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness, they further entrench those negative self-perceptions.

These patterns manifest in myriad ways in our lives. Overthinking, obsessively ruminating over specific topics or events, and adopting a black-and-white mindset—seeing things as either perfect or flawed, good or bad—inflict significant stress. They leave little room for the nuances of life, personal growth, or the acceptance of our innate imperfections.

Such unrealistic standards and goals are often unattainable, leading us to procrastinate or, in some cases, to freeze, unable to act due to the dread of imperfection. This emphasis on outcomes cultivates an intense fear of failure, inviting a hypercritical view of ourselves and others, and giving rise to anxiety, guilt, and shame.

Furthermore, this struggle often drives us to overcommit because our inability to say ‘no’ compels us to take on more than we can handle in a bid to satisfy everyone, which inevitably leads to burnout and resentment.

So, how do we navigate these complex emotions and thoughts?

First, by practicing self-compassion. We must learn to recognize that making mistakes is part of being human and to treat ourselves with kindness during times of failure or disappointment. This approach fosters emotional resilience and paves the way for happiness and well-being.

Second, by setting boundaries. This does not mean erecting walls but rather defining our limits so we can maintain fulfilling interpersonal relationships without feeling overburdened, all the while communicating our needs effectively.

And finally, by finding joy in the process rather than the outcome. When we focus exclusively on results, we overshadow the enjoyment found in the journey itself, denying ourselves the satisfaction that comes from learning and growth, irrespective of the final product.

Remember, perfectionism and people-pleasing are multifaceted issues, and the strategies to manage them are quite personal—there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This is why seeking help from a therapist can be beneficial. They can assist us in navigating these complex and deeply personal challenges. As we explore this path, we must be patient with ourselves and recognize that each small step is a part of a larger journey towards well-being.

Above all, we must understand that learning to release the grip of perfectionism and people-pleasing is an ongoing process. Celebrate progress, however small, and know that with each boundary set and each act of self-compassion is building a more authentic and fulfilling life.

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