Perfectionism Therapy

Learn the skills you need to manage perfectionism, enhance your emotional wellbeing, and maintain long-term freedom from pain and struggle.

Man with a happy mask

Do You Wear A Mask To Hide Your Pain?

Although you may have achieved external success, do you inwardly suffer? Does your inner critic constantly point out your flaws, convincing you that you never quite hit the mark no matter how perfect you strive to be? Do you measure how well things are going in terms of how others are feeling instead of acknowledging your own needs first?  

If someone were to observe your life outwardly, they may conclude that you are the picture of success. Perhaps you’re described as obliging, meticulous, and quick to smile. You’re someone who others want on their team. However, this external disguise conceals a painful truth: when you’re alone, you fall apart. Crippling insecurity and self-doubt lead to the perception that others judge you as harshly as you judge yourself. 

Your Desire To Please May Lead To Burnout And Emotional Exhaustion

You might believe that if you appear perfect to others and avoid showing any vulnerability, you will avoid displeasing them and potential rejection. However, this strategy inevitably backfires, causing you to build walls that won’t allow anyone to get close to you. Or maybe your desire to please creates imbalances in your personal and professional relationships. As a result, you may experience work burnout or shut down emotionally because you can't face taking on one more issue that needs to be solved.

If you blame yourself for every failure and misstep, you can only contain your misery for so long. To relieve the pressure of perfection, you might retreat from the world and self-medicate or engage in self-harm. Although you are suffering, you don’t reveal your pain to others for fear of exhibiting weakness.

Therapy for perfectionism allows you to take off your mask and relinquish control for once. Working with a therapist provides the tools to understand how perfectionism negatively impacts your life and helps you foster healthier ways to connect to yourself and others.

Perfectionism Is Rooted In Our Childhood Experiences

The roots of perfectionism usually begin in childhood. When we experience an absence of warmth and love, these unmet emotional needs can cause developmental trauma that stays with us throughout adulthood. But rather than admit to ourselves the unbearable truth that our parents weren’t always there for us, we often compartmentalize or suppress these difficult emotions as a way of coping. 

Because we are usually rewarded for being hardworking and obedient, we play the part of the happy child to receive praise and recognition. After all, the American ethos—informed by capitalism and patriarchy—values adopting a “nose to the grindstone” mentality to achieve success. This credo reinforces the perfectionistic tendency to seek approval through people-pleasing while ignoring our own inner experience. 

Group of kids with trophy

We Are Often Rewarded For Perfectionism

Most of the time, we are outwardly praised for being selfless and putting others first—and it feels gratifying when this trait becomes firmly entrenched in our identity. Even though denying our emotions is killing us, we continue to manage the best we can, even if that means hitting a rock bottom that includes substance abuse or suicidal ideation. And no matter how bad things get, we might still struggle to admit that our perfectionism will not protect us from emotional pain.  

If you are finally ready to let go of your perfectionist mindset that robs you of self-worth, therapy can help. By learning how to recognize and feel your emotions and become more vulnerable, counseling offers an antidote to perfectionism.

Perfectionism Therapy Allows You To Live More Authentically 

a woman smiling and happy

When you have organized your life around presenting yourself as perfect at the expense of acknowledging your emotions, letting go of control can feel chaotic and terrifying at first. Not only is perfectionism how you function but you probably receive positive reinforcement. However, negating your inward suffering is not sustainable.

In therapy for perfectionism, the long-term goal will be to explore the core childhood traumas in which these tendencies originated, either through parental neglect or enmeshment. If your success and achievement were tied to vicariously filling your parent’s emotional needs, we can work on re-parenting yourself with kindness and compassion.

What To Expect In Sessions

Initially, we will work on self-regulation skills to help you assess ineffective thinking, slow down emotional reactivity, and explore your relationship with fear, vulnerability, and anger. Identifying interactions that trigger unfavorably overly reactive responses, such as getting minor negative feedback that you interpret as an abject failure, will help you recognize how much your perfectionist mindset influences how you think which allows you to make different choices.

In addition to understanding the situations that cause you to mask or avoid your feelings, we will also work with parts of self that interfere with effective communication and openness. Ultimately, you will be able to live more aligned with your core self, the authentic part of you that is wise, tolerant, present, and unafraid of connection with self and others.

Counseling For Perfectionism Offers Evidence-Based Modalities

The therapy interventions for perfectionism I offer integrate both mind and body. For example, practicing mindfulness in therapy sessions allows you to be present with yourself and others. Incorporating Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), you will utilize emotional regulation skills to befriend rather than avoid emotions. We will also fine-tune your interpersonal skills so you become more comfortable being authentic with others, setting boundaries, and asking for what you want or need. 

With Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, we will work with parts of the self to identify your needs and use your “wise mind” to take care of these parts. Throughout therapy for perfectionism, we will incorporate journaling, guided meditations, and somatic awareness that help you become more attuned to your emotions, thoughts, needs, and wants by noticing how bodily sensations are connected with feelings. 

Perfectionism is hard to overcome when you fear being vulnerable. However, peace comes from not striving to do everything perfectly. Rather, allowing yourself to be loved and accepted as you are without trying to hide perceived flaws is where contentment resides. As a therapist who specializes in perfectionism, I have worked with clients who were able to shift away from a secret life full of emotional pain and self-harm to one of openness, love, and joy.

friends laughing

But Maybe You’re Not Sure If Perfectionism Therapy Is Right For You…

The thought of dropping my perfectionist habits in therapy terrifies me. It’s all I know.

Participating in therapy to learn how to live without perfectionism can be challenging. In fact, it may be the most difficult thing you have ever done. However, if you're being honest with yourself, you'll realize you want to be free from its torment. Rather than being consumed with making everyone else happy all the time, you can put your needs first. Letting go of perfectionism will give you the ability to come home to yourself and tap into your authentic wisdom and peace.

Why do I need therapy for my perfectionism since it means that I’m striving to be the best at what I do?

Superficially, your life strategy has worked up until now—you’ve achieved a lot, and people are happy to have you on their team. But if you are looking into therapy, then some part of your carefully designed pattern to smile, obey, and work hard is high-functioning anxiety that is no longer working for you. Perhaps behind closed doors, self-medicating and self-harm is taking its toll. If perfectionism worked in the long term, you would feel peace and joy, but you don't. Perfectionism disorder treatment works—we can do this together.

If I meet with a therapist about my perfectionism, won’t I be judged?

One pitfall of the perfectionist mindset is believing that asking for help is not allowed. Although striving for excellence unassisted is often rewarded, this trait is keeping you stuck. The truth is that some people who love you know therapy for perfectionism will help you. You are probably judging yourself the most for seeking support. We will work on that in our sessions. Soon, you will realize that asking for help from a qualified therapist will be the most perfect thing you have done in your whole life.

Finding Peace Requires Letting Go Of Perfectionism

Living a more authentic life can open you up to new possibilities. To find out more about online perfectionism therapy with me, please call or text (615) 785-5562 or visit my contact page.

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