A while back I read Daring Greatly, a wonderful book about vulnerability by the author and researcher Brené Brown. In her book, Brown talks a lot about perfectionism, a trait common in individuals who develop eating disorders. Her discussion about the difference between perfectionism and healthy achievement really resonated with me and helped inform the work I do with my clients. Here is what I learned and continue to share about perfectionism.
Perfectionism is about never feeling like we are good enough. It’s a defensive move and is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect we will minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. Perfectionism is about trying to earn approval from others while healthy striving is self-focused.
Healthy achievement motivates us to accomplish our goals while perfection keeps us stuck. Healthy achievement is associated with success and happiness. Perfectionism is associated with depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, missed opportunities, and a feeling of being paralyzed in life.
Perfectionism is destructive to the self, addictive, breeds shame, hampers creativity and simply DOES NOT EXIST! To work on letting go of perfectionism and to strive for healthy achievement, we can start by accepting and owning our flaws, being creative, allowing ourselves to be messy, and by practicing self-compassion.
By Jacki LaRusso, LGPC, Therapist, Anorexia/Bulimia IOP Lead Therapist at The Body Image Therapy Center DC office. If you would like to get in touch with Jacki please call (877-674-2843) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.