STOP TRYING TO BE PERFECT

It’s affecting your self- esteem and wrecking your peace of mind, so here’s how to stop perfectionism.

Lots of us expect perfection of ourselves, while knowing we can’t really achieve it. If that applies to you, it may be seriously affecting your mental health. Perfectionism Has been shown to be linked to depression anxiety, eating disorders and suicide risk – and women are most likely to struggle with it, says psychologist Honor Newman,author of Killing the Perfectionist Within (Balboa Press Au, £12.99). ‘Perfectionism is about striving to meet a certain standard that you deem as flawless,’ she says. ‘If you throw gender into the mix, the “perfect female persona in western culture is often viewed as perpetually nice and accommodating, meek and gentle. Society Tends to dole out negative feedback to women who express qualities that don’t fit this ideal, such as assertiveness, anger,power and gregariousness. ’

1.ASPIRE TO BE AVERAGE

‘Imagine feeling no pressure to be anything but yourself,’ says Newman. ‘Comfortable in your own skin, at peace with your life, despite its flaws and imperfections. Wouldn’t That feel glorious, to just be free? To feel good about you? That’s what you can feel if you embrace your averageness.’ Newman suggests writing a paragraph about what being average means – along the lines of Tm okay-looking and have a few people interested in me or I’m in a committed relationship…’. It might feel uncomfortable to start with, but when we let go of impossible ideals and feel grateful for what we have, the effect can be liberating.

2.IMPROVE YOUR SELF-TALK

The way you talk to yourself in the privacy of your own mind has a huge influence on who you are and how you experience the world. Negative self-talk makes you feel bad, positive self-talk makes you feel better. And it’s within your power to change your self-talk. ‘Spend 15 minutes a day talking to yourself as though you were giving a pep talk to a person who is very dear to you,’ says Newman. ‘Journal about how you feel in the hours afterwards. Make this a regular weekly practice.’

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3.AID SELF-ACCEPTANCE

Accepting who you are is of great importance for inner happiness. Newman suggests choosing a quiet place and reflecting honestly on what you’re really like – friendly, outgoing, neurotic, messy. Consider which traits you see as strengths and which you think are weaknesses. ‘Now,says Newman, ‘imagine putting those weaknesses inside a circle. Next, imagine the circle glowing with light inside and out. Breathe deeply and focus on this circle for a minute or so. Try not to judge it. Imagine drawing this circle into your heart and your heart allowing this circle in and embracing it like a hug. Practise this whenever you’re feeling down on yourself.’

4. BOOST YOUR BODY IMAGE

Perfectionism has been found to have a link with anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorders and extreme weight and shape concerns. ‘In fact, of all the psychological issues people have, research has shown perfectionism to have the strongest link with eating disorders,’ says Newman. But even if your body-image issues aren’t this severe worrying about your physical flaws can drag you down daily. Consider all the ‘imperfections’ you believe your body to have – moles, gaps between teeth, and soon. Don’t make judgements; see them as unique features that make you the person you are, advises Newman.

5. GET SOME R&R

Looking after yourself physically can make a big difference to how you feel. When you’re stressed and tired, it’s hard to feel positive about anything, including yourself. Prioritise Rest – it’s a necessity, not a luxury. So book that yoga class or massage.

STOP  TRYING TO BE PERFECT

SHELF HELP

Each issue, we bring you the best advice from the self-help classics

This month, we look at The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters (Vermilion, £12.99) In a nutshell: We may be living in the 21st century, but we still have an ‘inner chimp’ – a fast-thinking,emotional part of the brain that responds instinctively to situations, even if the rational, ‘human’ part of the brain says something else. This book takes a scientific look at the structure of the brain, then explains how it affects your thoughts and feelings – and how you can manage them. A nugget: ‘You’re not responsible for the nature of your Chimp, but you are for managing it.’

STOP  TRYING TO BE PERFECT

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