Now, let’s talk about how you can begin changing this perfectionist habit. The best way is to use the mental distortions.
Start by examining your all-or-nothing thinking. Spend time investigating whether or not the world can be meaningfully evaluated by using this way of thinking. Decide if certain walls are totally clean, if people are totally handsome/beautiful or ugly, etc. After doing this for a while, you’ll see how irrational it is to assume that anything is all one way or another. Then you can begin substituting them with more realistic “gray” thoughts. Instead of perceiving yourself as a failure because you didn’t do something perfectly, you’ll notice that you did fine. It will take time to remember to substitute the reasonable thought for the extreme. But, eventually you’ll catch yourself and make the change.
Next, start working on over-generalizing. Stop yourself whenever you hear yourself use the word “always” or “never” when describing yourself and/or your behavior. Little in life is forever, so there is no need to worry that you’ll always do whatever it is you are concerned about. However, it will happen if you determine it should be so and make a concentrated effort to be sure it does. Just because you chose to behave in a certain way yesterday doesn’t mean you will always make that choice. Choose not to let your past become your future. It doesn’t have to.
Third are the “should” statements. Get rid of all the “shoulds” and “ought tos” in your life. Very few are valid and they do not take all the pertinent factors into consideration. You do the best you can with the circumstances you find yourself in. Learn from each experience and move forward!
One way to effectively make these changes is to keep a daily written record of these self-critical cognitions, pinpoint the form of mental distortion each contains, and substitute a more objective, self-enhancing thought.
Copyright 2011 Lynn Borenius Brown
© Lynn Borenius Brown and The Loving Path, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lynn Borenius Brown and The Loving Path with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.