Unhelpful Rules & Perfectionism:
Although many rules are healthy and useful, unhelpful rules are inflexible, rigid, and unreasonable. Rigid rules and inaccurate assumptions can cause people to hold unrealistic expectations about themselves and others, which if unmet may bring about disappointment and criticism.
Perfectionists’ self esteem is based heavily on their ability to attain extremely high standards. Consistent with their belief in the importance of achieving these high standards, their lives are often directed by a number of rules and assumptions designed to ensure that they meet their high standards.
Some rules commonly held by perfectionists include:
- Fear of Failure (e. g. “I must do things perfectly”, or “If I try, then I will only fail”).
- Shoulds & Musts (e. g. “Must be never make a mistake” or “Should be as good as them”)
- All-or-Nothing (e. g. “There is a right and a wrong way to do things”).
- Constant Checking & List Making (e. g. “I must check for email replies”).
- Control (e. g. “I must be prepared for anything”). Such unhelpful rules often form the basis for the unrealistically high standards that perfectionists set for themselves.
If you are reading this you may have developed what is commonly referred to as a rigid philosophy of demandingness – all too often in relation to friends or your progress in life you use words like ‘must’ and ‘have to’ and ‘should’ and ‘ought to’.
For example ‘I MUST be seen as confident with my colleagues’.
As a result, because its impossible for you to control everything in life (including your own responses), you are continually setting yourself up to fail and feel stressed and anxious.
So its time for a change – its time to ensure that the internal dialogue you use in your own mind moves towards a more flexible philosophy of desire – its time to start using words like ‘prefer’ and ‘desire’ and ‘want’ and ‘like’.
Or rather, try and catch yourself saying or thinking in terms of rigid ‘must’ and ‘should’ and ‘need’ and ‘ought’ and see how you feel when you change the word to a want’ or ‘would like’.
For example: ‘I would PREFER to be seen as confident all the time, but I recognise that this is simply impossible because I too am human, therefore fallible and imperfect.’