Perfectionism means we are never “good enough” unless we (and everything we do) are perfect. Although you may think that perfectionism is something to strive for, it actually hinders creativity and growth. Trying something new becomes an anxiety provoking venture since, for the perfectionist, there must be no risk of making mistakes along the way.
Everyone who has seen a child learning to walk will know that as soon as a child falls, it will naturally try to get back up again. It won’t even hesitate – it will stumble, stand up, toddle on and fall again, and again, and again. Obviously, a child needs to fall to learn to walk – without falling it can’t learn about balance, gravity and the way the body works. So in this way, both the stumbling and the toddling are part of learning how to walk.
It’s such a pity that we grow out of this skill to get up again when we make mistakes – without hesitation – or when things go differently from how we want them to go. We don’t usually think about this, but most inventions have been through hundreds and sometimes thousands of previous versions before becoming amazing. Can we try and see ourselves as going through the same process?
In her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Brené Brown suggests that there is nothing wrong with healthy striving, but that perfectionism fuels the thought, “If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame”.
She suggests we should embrace our imperfections, be open about them and learn from them. We can joyfully, instead of anxiously, learn about what works and what doesn’t.
If we can bear to look at our mistakes, we can learn to accept ourselves as we are, not as we think we should be.
Bibi Schonau is a Counselling Psychologist. She provides counselling and EMDR therapy at The Therapy Practice London.
Debunking therapy myths....
Therapy is for weak people
Wrong. Perhaps you think that asking for help through counselling or therapy is a sign of weakness. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.Taking the step towards therapy means that you’re brave enough to invest in yourself and your future. To me, that sounds quite clever and strong.
It's a bit 'out there' isn't it?
Not true. We believe that therapy should be an ordinary thing, something that is part of our normal lives – just like going to the dentist or having a haircut. It’s amazing that we spend so much time and money on our physical health, and relatively little on our emotional health. Knowing that our emotions are such important factors in our experience of happiness is something that can really make a difference in our lives.
You only see a therapist if you have a problem.
Not at all. We tend to think of therapy as an emergency intervention. This is often what we do at our practice – we help people through crises – but therapy is also a way to facilitate personal development and growth. It can help you to clean up a mess from the past, but it can also help you to become emotionally healthy and get the most from your life.
When is the last time you thought about your life, and considered whether you are happy with where you are? When was your last emotional health MOT?
I'll be judged.
We won’t do that. We’ll keep your secrets and we’ll be on your side to help you to become the best that you can be.
Bibi Schonau is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist at The Therapy Practice London in East Village, at the heart of the Olympic Park.
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