Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Equating Being Perfect With Being Loved

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If you are a perfectionist, a psychoanalytic reason why is that you may have come to equate being perfect with being loved in your family of origin, and of course in order to be perfect you had to do everything perfectly.

This situation is difficult because instead of congratulating yourself on your many successes you tend to get down on yourself for missing the mark, which happens all the time because approaching perfection is tough. You put a lot of undue pressure on yourself and the result is not being very happy in your life.

The thing is that, going back to our psychoanalytic idea at the top, you deserve to be loved for being you not for being perfect all the time. This starts with your attitude towards yourself. One way that CBT therapists help their perfectionistic clients is by getting them to think about being more flexible with their self-imposed inflexible standards, saying to themselves “If I do this next thing perfectly that would be great, but if I don’t it’s not the end of the world.”

Relaxing perfectionistic standards doesn’t mean ceasing to try hard, it just means cutting yourself a break. Human growth can be a really positive experience when you’re drawn forward by what you love rather than driven by what you fear, when you positively reinforce yourself for your many successes, excited to build upon them even more, rather than negatively reinforce yourself for your supposed failures, anxiously trying to avoid them and getting down on yourself for them.

The fact is that if you’re really concerned about being perfect at everything you probably are a very talented person. If not you would have given up the fight long ago since you pretty much never would have approached anyone’s standards of perfection. But you can take all that talent, all those potentialities inside of you, and be joyful about developing them instead of having that constant pressure flitting at the edge of your conscious thought telling you that you’re just not good enough, that if you don’t do this next thing perfectly you’re not worthy of love.