Perfectionists commonly exhibit three mental distortions that are nonproductive for effectively dealing with daily living.
The most common distortion is all-or-nothing thinking. Perfectionists see everything in a dichotomous manner. To them, everything is either good or bad; right or wrong; black or white. There are no shades of gray.
The second distortion found in perfectionists is over-generalizations. They come to the conclusion that a negative event will repeat itself endlessly. Over-generalized thinking leads to a narrow margin of safety. This results in a narrow road of perceived success and a wide road of perceived failure, with no median.
The third distortion involves “should” statements. This is an attitude that leaves out self-acceptance. The perfectionist does not attempt to learn from mistakes, is not self-compassionate. Instead, there is self-deprecation. There are standards that are impossible to consistently maintain and there is no room for taking factors such as experiences, emotional needs, etc. into consideration. These make us unable to handle every situation with flawless grace. Instead, there is the continuous pressure of expecting to always do as one “should”. This attitude creates feelings of frustration and guilt that cause them not to be able to see beyond the error. Perfectionists become trapped by nonproductive, self-critical dialogues that lead to depression and negative self-esteem.
So, take some time to notice when you engage in all-or-nothing thinking, over-generalizations and/or “should” statements. This will prepare you for next week when we’ll discuss how to begin changing the perfectionist habit.
Copyright 2011 Lynn Borenius Brown
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