Perfectionists are often the harshest self critics. Brene Brown, Ph.D defines perfectionism as “a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgement, and shame.”
Self criticism is used as a way to ensure you are ‘perfect’. The lie perfectionists tell themselves is that constant second guessing means you will not make a mistake. The trouble is you spend so much of your life second guessing yourself that you don’t get a chance to live in the moment. Instead, you are caught in a constant ‘fight-flight-or-freeze’ sympathetic loop.
Why create a whole blog on perfectionism? I noticed a pattern in my practice that patients with autoimmune disease tend to be hard on themselves. I started looking into the research and I found this paper revealing that patients with autoimmune disease are more self deprecating than controls, which confirmed my suspicions. Years of overwork and stress to prove your worthiness leads to chronic activation of our sympathetic system. Our stress activation system is closely linked with our immune system. The full mechanisms of action for self criticism and immune activation are not fully worked out yet, but there is a connection.
Just like Dr. Brown said, perfectionism is a misguided tool to reduce or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgement and shame. Criticizing ourselves and striving for perfection unfortunately do not produce the desired outcome and can harm our health.
Instead, try holding a hand over your heart and saying to yourself: ‘I am enough’.
Click to read Part 3 Self Compassion and Autoimmunity
Women with autoimmune disease found to be more self deprecating than controls
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown, PhD.