How to Replace Perfectionism and Anxiety With Self-Compassion
Sometimes, it can feel that everyone else around you “has it together,” especially when your friends may be having fun at the beach, and you may be grinding away at your 9 to 5 job. During the Summer months when travel is at an all time high, you may be feeling that natural ping of self-comparison, and you may be wondering ways to help yourself feel more at ease in your unique stage of life.
Today we are grateful to hear from Melissa Brody about 3 lessons she learned in therapy which helped her feel more supported and to have more confidence in her “having it all together.”
About the author: Melissa Brody is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA and is a professional improv comedy performer on the side. Melissa utilizes evidence based interventions grounded in CBT, Mindfulness, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). She works mainly with adolescents and young adults struggling with depression, anxiety, and phase of life issues. Melissa believes in the power of self-compassion and employs her background in comedy to promote healing through connection and humor. Connect with her on Instagram via @howtogetittogether
You may be asking: how do I “get it together”?
In my work as a therapist, the theme I see most prevalent amongst my clients is judgement towards the self and a lack of self-compassion. And I absolutely can relate. As a former perfectionist myself, I have learned how much rigidity and shame is rooted in perfectionism. When I was in graduate school, I found myself wondering, “If only I could get my life together.” Through education, training, and my own therapy, here is what I’ve learned.
Three lessons I’ve learned in therapy
What is self compassion? Part of self-compassion is recognizing that we all are living the shared experience of being human. This means that we all have made mistakes and are flawed in some way. We all will experience pain at some point in our lives and that may include suffering. Rather than avoiding the reality of this universal truth or inflicting further pain with self-criticism or judgment, we can practice self-compassion. This is to understand that although we are imperfect, we can treat ourselves with kindness.
How self-compassion has helped me
This life lesson became imperative to put into practice during my time in graduate school. I have always put so much pressure on myself to have “it” all together or at least appear like I know what I’m doing all the time. I slowly learned that no one really has life all figured out, AND THATS OK. We’re all doing the best we can. Perfection is an illusion and perfectionists are usually trying to compensate for feeling a lack of something. For example, if I feel pressure to look perfect before I go on vacation, I’m probably hiding the fact that I feel insecure about myself, rather than living my life according to my values which includes fun and freedom. You can practice self-compassion by saying what you would say to your best friend if they were struggling to yourself.
Values are our core beliefs that guide our behavior. It always amazes me whenever I discuss values with my clients. When we hone in on what type of life they truly want to live, a whole world opens up. I don’t think we spend enough time exploring and identifying what is truly important to us and what makes life worth living. Understanding your values is the focus of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This therapy emphasizes validating our emotional experience and that we have a choice to act in line with our values. For example, if your anxiety tries to convince you that you would be better off isolating yourself but you value friendship, we can thank anxiety for trying to protect us, but behave in a way that honors friendship. This may mean showing up at a social event and learning to tolerate the discomfort in order to live by your values.
How understanding my values helped me to adjust
When I realized I valued freedom and relaxation more than perfectionism, I started to transform. What’s important to you? Family? Friendship? Love? Spend some time thinking about this and see if you have been living your life honoring these values.
Lastly, one way I’ve learned to “get it together” is to have a sense of humor. Humor can be an incredible coping mechanism when used appropriately. It can also be a vehicle to discuss uncomfortable yet important topics. I love using social media to discuss mental health and the tough parts of life through comedy.
What I’ve learned about humor
I started doing improv almost 10 years ago and for those who don’t know, improv comedy is a type of live theater where stories, games, and scenes are made up on the spot often through suggestions provided by the audience. One of the tenets in improv is “yes, and” meaning that when you are performing with your scene partners, you will accept the premise you are given and add something onto this concept. I love how improv teaches important life skills. For example, it’s taught me to live in the present moment, celebrate failures, which often is what makes scenes comical, and most of all to acknowledge and accept (the “yes”) where I’m at in life and then to (“and“) keep going. How can you apply the concept of “yes, and” in your life?
Remember - no one really has it all together
The way I combat perfectionism and practice self love and compassion is to live a life in line with my values. I value authenticity and connecting honestly with people. I believe humor is one of the best ways to do that. One way I honor humor is through the community I’ve grown on Instagram. My goal is to normalize the importance of mental health and hopefully relieve people of this pressure to be perfect. If you’ve ever struggled with wanting to be perfect, go back to what’s important to you, remember your values, be kind to yourself, and remember at the end of the day no one really has it all together.
Keep in touch!
Huge thank you to Melissa Brody for her perspective today. We hope you have learned more about self -compassion, values, and humor and how these principles can help you feel empowered to be more authentically yourself.
What topics do you want to hear about most? We’d love to source experts to share more perspective with you. Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in touch @findmywellbeing.