Progress, Not Perfection
Updated: Feb 6
Contrary to popular belief, many perfectionists have low self-esteem. If you believe "If I can't do something perfectly, it's not worth doing at all," it is difficult to push yourself to do anything that you can later feel good about.
This perfectionistic mindset that keeps us from taking initiative also often keeps people from developing self-esteem. Many people take some good steps forward and do some good things or possess some admirable traits, but then that voice kicks in and says, "Since you didn't do it perfectly, it doesn't count" or "Since you aren't this way all the time, you don't get credit for it."
Perfectionistic thoughts can keep us from recognizing when we really do make progress, because to the perfectionist, if it's not perfection, it's not good at all, so it can't register as "evidence." Many of my clients carry a card with the phrase, "Progress not Perfection" as a way to remind them that small steps of progress- not perfection- are the goal.
It can be helpful to be mindful each day of small steps you have taken forward. Also, it helps to ask yourself the question, "How was I in this area before I even started therapy?" This helps us remember what our "baseline" was and helps us see how far we've come.
Emotional growth is a little like physical growth- you can't just stand there and look down at your feet when you're four years old and notice yourself growing, but each year when you go into the doctor, you've probably grown several inches, and one day you wake up and you're are five-foot-six (or however tall you are). Similarly, emotional growth happens in small increments. So we must broaden our perspective to see how much we truly have grown.
Use the following tool to note small progresses you make on a day-to-day basis.
Progress, Not Perfection
Where I started:
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Source: The CBT Toolbox- Tool 18
To purchase: https://www.amazon.com/CBT-Toolbox-Workbook-Clients-Clinicians/dp/1936128306/ref=sr_1_4?gclid=CjwKCAjw3qGYBhBSEiwAcnTRLoG58iIfMiv-OX8widrLXKCZFo-jBXC3kU0AHJoxiR1HbD_VAEk87BoCLkwQAvD_BwE&hvadid=241612436068&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9021459&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=e&hvrand=18062698347361826087&hvtargid=kwd-56006045736&hydadcr=22534_10353872&keywords=the+cbt+toolbox&qid=1661562490&sr=8-4