Depression Relationship Therapy
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by Karen A. Solomon, LCSW, BCD, CGP, CHt

It is often those clients, who are clearly suffering in a quest for perfection, who will tell you they are not perfectionists. Since they are not achieving perfection in any area of their lives, they conclude they are not perfectionists. However, it is the very striving for this unrealistic goal in every area that creates their pain, disappointment, frustration and self loathing.

In my work with a particular client, who suffers from feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem, it is clear that her expectations are often so unrealistic and virtually impossible to achieve, that she is doomed to feel like a failure. When it is suggested that she is a perfectionist, she laughs and says: “I wish.” She believes if she were only more perfect, things in her life would be better.

This is a very high functioning professional woman who is well liked and respected. However, by her standards, nothing is ever good enough. Her assessment of her performance and accomplishments is filled with self criticism and harsh judgments.

Rather than focusing on a child’s genuine strengths and unique talents, parents sometimes put excessive pressure on their children to excel in all areas. This is often the outgrowth of the parent’s need to feel good about him or herself thru the child’s accomplishments. Sometimes, a parent had a dream which he did not have the opportunity to pursue or did not succeed at. The child may be pressured to achieve the parent’s goal so that the parent may vicariously experience satisfaction; inevitably, nothing the child does helps the parent because he or she has not dealt with their own feelings of disappointment, failure or inadequacy. In an effort to earn the parents’ love and approval, the child struggles to live up to these expectations. The less authentic the goal is for the child, the harder it is to attain, resulting in a chronic sense of not being good enough. Unfortunately, this sets up a generalized need to “over excel.” There are, of course, other life experiences that pave the way to the pain of perfectionism.

Striving for perfection is more than setting high standards and doing one’s best. It is an ongoing, frequently self defeating need for everything to be just so, accompanied by a fear of being judged. Making mistakes, appearing unkempt, earning anything less than perfect grades is intolerable to perfectionists. In their estimation, these minor human flaws are tantamount to failure. For the perfectionist in their insecurity and overly harsh self assessment, it is too frightening and uncomfortable to risk having others see them as they see themselves. Everyone in their lives has the potential to be the overbearing, critical, disappointed parent. Having everything in order helps reduce a perfectionists anxiety about being exposed as less than perfect.

Clearly, this way of thinking may significantly limit one’s capacity for satisfaction and joy as well as creating difficulty in their interpersonal relationships. We can all be hard on ourselves at times, but if you are consistently your own worst enemy, you may want to consider professional help.

Karen A. Solomon
Office : 631 - 543 - 2050

Commack, New York 11725

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