Perfectionism and Motherhood: What Lies Beneath

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Parenthood is no joke! The uncertainty, the time, the energy, the power struggles, the moments of joy, the moments of frustration, the judgment you feel from others, the guilt, the cuddles, the list goes on and on. It’s no wonder that so many mothers struggle with perfectionism, feeling like they are failing and afraid the world will find out.

Brene’ Brown, an expert in the area of shame resilience, states, “When perfectionism is driving, shame is always riding shotgun and fear is the annoying backseat driver.” She goes on to say, “We struggle with perfectionism in areas where we are most vulnerable to shame.” Click here to see Brene’ talk about perfection.

With social media being such a prevalent part of our culture, we are exposed to the beautifully curated lives of moms who seem to have it all together. There is no way they’ve ever dropped a freshly pumped bag of breastmilk on the ground or raised their voice to their children out of frustration. Those moms are happy and fulfilled and have figured out the magic formula for parenting success!

Enter guilt and shame. Guilt is the belief that “I did something bad,” while shame is the belief that “I am bad.” Enter perfection. Perfection is the tool that helps us think we can cover all the guilt and shame up so others don’t see who we really are and realize that we are a fraud. It’s heavy and exhausting.

So how do we recognize perfectionist behaviors over the desire for achievement?

First, notice your energy level. Are you exhausted trying to “keep up” with what you think others expect of you? Do you feel resentful of other people for making it look so easy while you continue to hide how much you are struggling? This is part of internal judgment and it is perpetually heavy.

Next, notice your behavior and ask yourself if what you are doing is driven by the need to look good for others or is a behavior driven by a fear of judgment. Maybe you are working to use strategies and skills that will enhance the bond and relationship you have with your child – this is more of an internal achievement behavior because you are doing it out of the desire for a better relationship with your child. The motivation is for your family and not the way you look in front of others.

Finally, engage in self-reflection and self-compassion. Begin to slow down and notice when you are talking to yourself with kindness and self-compassion or when you being judgmental and self-critical. Engage the role of self-compassion, allow it to support and guide you. Be patient with yourself as you continue to let go of the judgment that holds you back from being the most authentic mama that you know you can be!

Are you struggling with perfectionism and need some extra support? Contact me for a free consultation.