How do you think?

By now your perfectionism cycle will hopefully include a combination of thoughts, actions, self-talk, and emotions. One key point to take away from this exercise is that your thoughts have a knock-on effect. The way you interpret an event (either as a success or a failure) is key to the cycle and what keeps it going.

What we say to ourselves and what we think has a profound impact on our mood. When you have perfectionism and are often thinking that you are failing, or criticising yourself for not doing well enough, this way of thinking makes you feel anxious and depressed.

Not only do negative thoughts impact on your feelings, it also has an impact on the way you behave. For example, telling yourself you won't enjoy going to a party because you think you are boring and won't know anyone there will make you far less likely to make the effort and go out. So it is important to become aware of what you are thinking to understand what drives you to behave or react in the way you do. Since it is so important to realise your habitual thinking patterns, the next section will cover common unhelpful thinking styles. While you're reading through them, keep in mind the question "Does this apply to me and how I think?"

Thinking patterns

Double standards

Two sets of standards: those that apply to you and those that apply to everyone else. The ones you set yourself allow little space for errors and demand a lot. The ones set for everyone else allow for mistakes and leniency.   

Circle of Colored Pencils Slanted


Overgeneralising occurs when someone concludes that because they have failed to achieve one goal this means they are a failure as a person overall. 

'Should' statements

Your life is ruled by 'should'. What you should do and what you shouldn't. You may think of life like a game of chess, there are rules which dictate how to move or behave, outside of those rules the game would no longer be playable. 

Chess Game
man camera taking photo photographer

Selective attention

You view life through a filter so that not everything you see or hear is paid attention to. What typically passes through your 'filter' are negative comments, perceived failures, and evidence to suggest you haven't done well. What gets filtered out is the evidence which suggests otherwise.