imperfections

Perfectionism and Anxiety

Striving For Perfection And Anxiety

Being perfect, never making mistakes or failing, would relieve a lot of stress! You could enter every task or challenge with the knowledge that you would succeed every time. How amazing would it be to be able to let go of all those insecurities, worries and anxieties when new, difficult life events happen? You could live your life with ease.

Unfortunately, if everyone were perfect, life would be pretty boring. We would’t learn or grow, because we’d already know how to do everything. As cliché as it sounds, imperfections make us human and make life more interesting.

Imperfections Can Create Anxieties #youareyourownworstenemy

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When we believe that our mistakes reflect poorly on us, and when we feel that other people are constantly judging us for those mistakes or difficulties, it can create a lot of anxiety. You are your own worst enemy, because the perception that we need to be perfect all the time or people will criticize us often sets off a firestorm of critical self-talk:

  • I’m so stupid!
  • I can’t believe I just made a mistake!
  • What is wrong with me? I can’t get this right!
  • Now everyone will know I don’t know what I’m doing!
  • I shouldn’t have even tried!
  • I’ll never do that again!
  • I’m an idiot!

I’m pretty sure that you’d never say to others the hurtful things you say to yourself.  But when we feel vulnerable, the parts of us that want to protect us and keep us safe from harm jump in and start yelling. They criticize. They ridicule. Those parts of you believe that if they can get your attention, they’ll save you from making another mistake in the future.

Those self-protective parts think that the self-criticism will keep you on your toes for next time, but they can also encourage you to stop putting yourself out there, to stop you before you make the next mistake. Sadly, instead of making you feel better, fixing what went wrong or helping you learn from your mistakes, the negative self-talk leaves you feeling worthless, less-than and sometimes hopeless.

Soothing Our Critical Parts

So how do we break the cycle of beating ourselves up when we make mistakes? We do it through the practice of self-compassion.

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If we can hold ourselves with the same compassion that we show to others, it can reduce stress and anxiety. When we allow ourselves to be imperfect, to embrace our imperfections, we’re able to approach life with more openness and ease.

Here are four steps to help bring more self-compassion into your life:

1. Start paying attention to your negative self-talk. When that negative voice pipes up, ask yourself, with curiosity, what prompted it? Try to identify what that part of you is afraid of or what you are worried about. Sometimes journaling when you’re most critical of yourself can help you identify the things in life that make you feel less-than. We call those things your triggers.

2. Make a note of the negative things you tell yourself and ask, “Would I say these things to a close friend?” If not, then say out loud or write down what you might tell a friend who was struggling with the same thing.

3. As you begin to recognize when you get triggered, and you become more aware of your negative self-talk, pay attention to those moments. When they arise, I want you to try to say to yourself with compassion, “Wow! I just said some really mean things to myself. I was ready to put myself down for not being perfect, and my critical parts jumped in without my noticing! I can be so hard on myself.”

4. Now, bring to mind the things you’d say to a close friend who was struggling and try to say them to yourself. If you’ve been hard on yourself for a long time, this takes a lot of practice. You might start by imagining what your good friend might say to you if they knew you were having a hard time.

When times are tough, it can help to remember that everyone struggles from time to time. It’s a part of the human experience. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or when that critical voice wants to berate and minimize your difficulties, try saying to yourself, “I’m struggling right now. We all struggle once in a while.” You can also place your hand on your heart and recite these phrases: “May I be peaceful. May I be safe. May I be healthy and may I live my life with ease.”

I hope these steps help you quiet your inner critic and bring more self-compassion into your life.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by SHINE TANG & by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Embracing Your Imperfections Guest Blog

Instead of walking the tightrope of "being perfect" try being self-compassionate instead

Instead of walking the tightrope of "being perfect" try being self-compassionate instead

I’m excited to share my guest post for Sharon Martin’s blog, Happily Imperfect, on Pysch Central!

Striving for perfection can increase anxiety because it’s an impossible task.

Being mindful of our internal response when we make mistakes and bringing more self-compassion into our lives when we’re imperfect, can reduce our stress and anxiety!

Check out the blog post, Embracing Your Imperfections Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety. And if you would like to be learn how to be more mindful and self-compassionate you can check out my mindfulness group beginning in October. There are a few spots left and early enrollment discounts are available.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

10 Signs That You Might Be Under Stress

She’s Got It All, Doesn’t She?

Maria might seem familiar to you. Maybe she’s a friend, relative, co-worker…. Maybe she’s even you. I know her well, because she’s like many women I see in my Annapolis counseling practice who are affected by stress.

How stress affects your life

Maria sees herself as a woman who can handle a lot. She’s very busy most of the time, and when she’s got free time she finds things to fill her schedule. She juggles a career, children, laundry, cooking, cleaning, volunteering, and helping out friends in need. In fact, Maria loves to help others, but she finds asking for help much more difficult.

In the past, her friends often wondered how she managed to keep everything under control, but lately they worry that she’s struggling. Maria hasn’t said anything, but she’s missed a few plans with friends, she’s forgotten about parent meetings at the middle school, and she seems very distracted, as if her mind were a million miles away.

Life Changes Can Add Stress

Until recently, Maria had always seen herself as independent and motivated. More important, she always felt in control. Then she was promoted at work. In her new position, she has to manage employees and learn new responsibilities. She was so excited and proud to be promoted, but the added work has created stress. Maria believes that she should be able handle her new job without a mistake. She’s sure the employees are judging her and will no longer respect her if she doesn’t get it right.

10 Signs That You Might Be Under Stress

  1. Worrying all the time.
  2. Feeling as if our mind is always in the “on” position.
  3. Being short-tempered towards family and friends.
  4. Wanting to avoid people and places for fear that others are judging you.
  5. Anxiety attacks that seem to come from nowhere.
  6. Experiencing frequent headaches or stomachaches.
  7. Feeling tightness in the chest, or shortness of breath.
  8. Difficulty focusing on daily tasks.
  9. Trouble sleeping most nights because your mind won’t turn off.
  10. Feeling overwhelmed at work and at home.

Perfection: A Realistic Goal?

Maria thought she had to be a perfect parent, a perfect employee, a perfect wife, a perfect friend — but suddenly all of the pieces of her life that she’d kept organized and balanced suddenly felt overwhelming. She was irritable with her family, she avoided friends because she was sure they were judging her, she was constantly worrying, and she was stressed out. Maria thought that asking for help made her weak. When her husband and best friend suggested she see a counselor to help her manage her stress, Maria felt like a failure, but she knew she needed the outside support. 

With counseling perhaps Maria can learn to let go of the need to control everything and everyone, to reach out for help and support and to accept herself for who she is — a human with built-in imperfections.

Counseling Can Help You Manage Stress By:

Mindfulness helps you feel less overwhelmed
  • Giving you a safe, non-judgmental place to talk about what’s on your mind.
  • Providing space to tell your story from your perspective.
  • Allowing you to gain an understanding of your body’s stress response, and how it impacts your mental and physical health.
  • Teaching you stress-reduction strategies and techniques.
  • Helping you learn to accept yourself as you are, so that you can embrace your imperfections.

Sometimes our carefully controlled lives can feel out of control, like Maria’s did after her promotion. Counseling can help you bring balance to your life and reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed.

If you would like help managing your stress please call me for a free 15-minute phone consultation. You can also check out my blog for more posts on stress, mindfulness and how counseling might help you.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979.