Are you a perfectionist? Are you always giving yourself a hard time for this or that?

Many women suffer from perfectionism or negative self talk, you may recognise it as that nagging little voice that keeps telling you you can’t do things, or you’re not good enough.

With age comes life experiences, and invariably those life experiences include failures and negative events. A culmination of these experiences and events can weigh heavy on our mind making us believe we’re less proficient or successful than we actually are.

A woman’s biggest critic is nearly always herself, we’re attempting to live up to ideals that are impossible to achieve. If we aren’t being wildly successfully in our careers, the perfect doting mother and stunningly turned out every day then we feel we’ve dropped a ball.

The same breadth of expectations are not expected of men. We don’t expect gorgeous men who are also successful in business, being gorgeous OR successful is enough (obviously having both would be a bonus though, ahem). So why are we expecting ourselves to be perfect in all areas of life, and all at the same time?

Much of it is to do with society and our conditioning as we’ve grown up, but as adults we can choose to think and behave differently. Change always begins with yourself and realising that how you think and behave is a choice and puts you back in control.

Awareness of your thought processes and behaviours is the first step to change, just becoming aware can influence the way you think and behave for the positive.

If your habits are more ingrained then you may require additional motivation to start changing these behaviours. Don’t forget these habits and the negative self talk have probably been the norm for some years so breaking the habit won’t happen overnight, however it’s incredibly freeing to even think ‘I know I’m expecting too much of myself, and I’m going to try and give myself a break’. Immediately the pressure is lifted, and strangely once you shed those negative beliefs about yourself you actually start functioning better anyway.

Motivation to change comes from the realisation that there are benefits to behaving differently, when you start changing your behaviour and you notice positive results the motivation is increased to make further changes.

Write down some of the thoughts and behaviours that are no longer serving you well. Are they accurate? We’re so much harder on ourselves than we would be on a friend – if a friend shared what you’d written with you, what would you say to them?

Establishing fact from the negative stuff we tell ourselves is a good starting point. If there’s no truth in the negative self talk then it’s easier to get rid of. If there is some truth in what you’ve written, try writing down all the positive achievements and experiences you’ve had over the years – are you simply amplifying and over focusing on a few negative things? Negative experiences hurt and they take a long time to get over, we don’t dwell on positive experiences in nearly the same way so it can appear that our lives have been a series of failures which is rarely the case. Be fair on yourself, you’ll probably find that like most of us, you’ve had both successes and failures in life – at work, at home, and in your relationships. You’re probably pretty average, most of us are!

Take control of your thoughts and a change in behaviour will follow. If it helps to keep a diary of your thoughts, and the accuracy of them in the short term, then do so.

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