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Perfectionism in therapy, therapists and South Asians

Updated: Feb 19


birthday cake

Who, me?


Perfectionism?


Oh, heck no!


I just work hard.


I’m driven.


Determined.


*Know* my roots.


Focus on what needs to be done, on excellence

And maybe that drive can be isolating…


mmh..


Oh wait…


Dang it!


That's the thing about birthdays (last year pictured above)- you get to reflect on who you are now, who you were before, and also who you are becoming.


I’ll bet you didn’t know that my battle with perfectionism almost made me walk away from the beloved practice I've built since 2007.


Yup. No lie.


The need to do it perfectly, get it right 100% of the time, meet that high bar that "someone" keeps moving up...(all signs point to me!)


The need to not disappoint anyone - and mostly not myself - was enough to make me reconsider if I was good enough to do what I love.


What is *that* about??


I've been having a hard look at myself and reflecting on the contributing factors to my experiences with perfectionism - the constant drive.


I'd be amiss not to think that being the firstborn in a South Asian family didn't drive me to continually strive for the next rung and "lead" or "set an example". The constant fear of poverty or exclusion nipping at my heels constantly.


I recall one of my first boyfriend's family impacting me with the "not good or rich enough" stigma and that fueled a burn in my chest to do even better than an A.


I felt the pressure of being female - knowing that "someday" I may want the option to be with children - so needing to get the best parts of my career urgently and fervently.


But, I never consciously thought about any of this until my brother came to pick me up at the office for lunch one day. He looked around my office and frowned - "dude, what's with all the certificates?"


I rolled my eyes but as we chatted over lunch I realized that the wall of certificates was about me trying to prove I was "good enough" and that in some ways we all struggle with trying to get things "right".


I sat back to reflect on what being so driven and educated in every domain I humanly can actually get me.


All I could see was sleepless nights, anxiety, and at one point simply passing out from the sheer exhaustion of working two jobs, attending church, volunteering, going to school full time, and trying to be perfect in all of that.


At the time I was just irritated that the hospital stay was just slowing me down.


Now as I reflect I can see how it helped to slow me down to pause.


There are so many variations of perfectionism.

What do you picture when you envision perfectionism?


I think it can be hidden in so many places


There seems to be a popular picture aligning it with the Type A personality (myself for example).


But perfectionism doesn’t always look like the typical Type A personality. We often align the overachieving, rigid, formal, and task-oriented personality as being likely to engage in perfectionistic behaviors.


Behaviors that look like the need to get it right, having a high standard, making difficult demands


That was certainly familiar to me.


Here’s what I've learned though:


Perfectionism can also look like a “lazy” person. The one who does nothing. The one who looks laid back because they're holding back and they're paralyzed by their thoughts and expectations.


Don't overlook or judge too quickly - the person who doesn’t do something because it won’t be “perfect” - for them their perfectionism prevents them from getting started.


I believe that at the root of any form of perfectionism is what leads to that moment in which the “perfectionism monster” rears its head and turns a lovely person into the HULK!


So…


What’s at the root?


Each person has a unique story to unfold - sometimes it’s loss, grief, anxiety, or fear amongst many other possible scenarios.


What I do know, is that my own journey through Perfectionism led me to some pretty interesting research and strategies that have been helpful along the way!


Coming out of it on the other side I found more meaning in my work, my family, my relationships and my actual passions driven by sheer pleasure.


While my experience won’t be the same as yours I’m willing to bet there are a lot of similarities and that these similarities mean I’ve likely tried and enjoyed or tossed out strategies that you may want to consider!


Does any of this sound familiar?


Are you curious?


Let’s book a quick meet and greet and see what we find!


Book through our online system HERE!

 

team of counsellors

Our Team is comprised of advanced-level clinicians who are passionate about the work we do! You can reach out to any of us for intake, questions or to book an appointment any time HERE!





Komen


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