Perfectionism is an entrained mindset. It’s the refusal to accept yourself at any standard short of what you believe to be perfection.
In the case of being a narcissistic abuse survivor, perfectionism blurs lines with people pleasing. If you had narcissistic parents, your life was probably about being perfect for them, rather than for yourself — even if they made you believe it was all for you.
I lived under the illusion that I had to exhibit the perfect life for my parents. In high school I felt I was just a report card or résumé to them and nothing more.
When my mother asked me to help with cleaning or other projects, she never failed to find all the ways I was doing everything wrong. As I got ready for school in the mornings, I was often criticized for how I looked and for what others would think of me.
Not until I was an adult did I realize I was an outlet for my mother’s own self hatred, and that she capitalized on any opportunity to verbally abuse me.
It had greatly weakened my self esteem, and her voice had seeped in and become my own negative thoughts about myself. I became hypercritical of everything I said and did. I questioned every action and behavior with cruel judgment.
If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship with a narcissist, you may have become a perfectionist in attempts to save the relationship. They may have had you convinced that you were always in the wrong. They may have blamed you for their mistakes. And it’s so hard not to believe someone you love, especially when taking responsibility feels like it gives you the chance to salvage a relationship you wanted so badly.
There’s a great quote by Brene Brown about perfectionism that says:
“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield.”
But let’s be honest: it doesn’t work.
Perfectionism bogs you down in life. It causes anxiety. It (ironically) makes you play small and tone yourself down, rather than unleash your full potential without inhibitions.
But worst of all, it leads to unhappiness: something you don’t deserve.
We need to take responsibility for our healing and set ourselves free from the psychological warping called perfectionism.
Perfectionism hurts our well-being and can lead to anxiety disorders, depression and low self-esteem. Worst of all, it stops us from enjoying life because we make it impossible for ourselves.
Perfectionism makes us believe we’re failures when we’re not. It stops us from accomplishing what our hearts desire for us, because we create our own obstacles.
To overcome perfectionism, we need perspective.
When I realize I’m beating myself up over something ridiculous, I try to remember the big picture of life. It helps to ask: Would a close friend be as hard on me as I’m being on myself right now? Or ask: In a month from now will I even remember this moment I’m beating myself up about?
Remember that mistakes can help us instead of hurt us — depending on how we decide to look at them.
But sometimes we haven’t even made a mistake, and it’s all in our head. Sometimes we’re just plain too hard on ourselves. Whenever you feel you’re not good enough, catch yourself and trace the negative thoughts back to their root source. Does your inner critic sound a lot like your mom or dad? Your ex?
If you currently have a narcissist in your life or have been abused by one in the past, make sure you can separate the narcissist’s thoughts from your own.
This is why it’s important to understand how narcissists think and behave. Remember they have no sense for honesty. Instead, they care about controlling your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. They care about making you feel low. Making others feel worse or think low of themselves makes them feel better.
It helps to write down your thoughts and fears about yourself, and then ask yourself where these thoughts first came from.
Many survivors of narcissistic abuse deal with depression, anxiety and other challenging emotions. For that reason, it’s helpful to ask: “am I thinking negatively or critically of myself just because I’m feeling low right now?”
This type of thought process is called emotional reasoning. Sometimes we feel low, and our thoughts reflect an assumption that it’s because we are low.
With that reasoning, we become too hard on ourselves. The best response to this is to focus on changing how we feel, rather than feeding into thoughts that drain us.
After you’ve done something like exercise or deep breathing to change how you feel, write down your negative thoughts about yourself and challenge them. Breaking down your thought processes on paper helps to eliminate the illusions that cause us to suffer with perfectionism and other toxic mindsets.
When I first realized that so much of the mental toxicity and emotional dysfunction I was experiencing had come from being raised by narcissistic parents, I had to get to the bottom of it. I started researching, going to therapy and processing what I was learning about narcissistic abuse. Finally I began to heal, and I felt called to help others like me to activate their own healing process.
Eventually, my online course Narcissistic Abuse Recovery was born. I created it for people who are still dealing with a narcissist in their lives, as well as people healing from the effects of narcissistic abuse after going no-contact.
In a series of 23 prerecorded videos, I teach students how narcissists think and behave, so that they can unmask their narcissist rather than react to them. I equip you with the tools for emotional management and responding to symptoms of complex post traumatic stress (CPTSD), which include anxiety, emotional flashbacks, depression and more. I also teach you how to create boundaries with narcissists and with people in general. We also go over the rules and safe practices of going no-contact with a narcissist.
We look at healing your relationship to money, as many survivors of narcissistic abuse have experienced some form of financial abuse. I address several other common concerns survivors have, including people pleasing and lack of assertiveness, as well as self-isolation.
Because I offer a coaching service for narcissistic abuse recovery, students of the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery class can enjoy reduced coaching rates when they purchase the class with bundled with coaching.
If you’re interested in seeing if this course is a fit for you, head over to the class page by clicking here.