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10 Best Ways To Overcome Perfectionism As A New Mom

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Being a perfectionist is challenging on its own. But when you combine that with being a new mom, it takes on a whole new level because there is no such thing as a perfect mom. Read on for tips on how to overcome perfectionism.

how to overcome perfectionism

I’m a (recovering) perfectionist. When I had my baby, I nearly drove myself insane, trying to do everything by the book. 

It took me embarrassingly long to realise that there are too many different ways of raising your baby. And a lot of those ways are contradictory. So I couldn’t possibly do “everything” right. I realised I had to let go. I used these techniques:

How To Overcome Perfectionism:

You can overcome perfectionism using these tips:

  • Know your perfectionism traits
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Acknowledge your feelings
  • Set reasonable goals
  • Focus on the positive
  • Change your self-talk
  • Change your view of criticism 
  • Focus on “why” rather than “how well”
  • Cut out social media
  • Go to therapy

I will go into more detail later on. First, let’s find out – are you a perfectionist?

Types Of Perfectionism

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of perfectionism. 

Adaptive Perfectionism

Adaptive perfectionism is a type of perfectionism where you have high standards, but those standards are flexible depending on the circumstances. 

You still strive to meet your high standards but won’t become overly upset if you don’t reach them. 

Maladaptive Perfectionism

You beat yourself up when you don’t reach your high expectations. 

You realise that the world around you doesn’t live up to your standards, and you find that highly stressful and a cause for anxiety.

signs of perfectionism

Signs Of Perfectionism

The mind of a perfectionist is an interesting place. On the one hand, setting high standards for yourself is good. On the other hand, it’s not so good to break yourself down when you don’t achieve those high standards.

Do any of these signs sound familiar?

  1. You set almost impossibly high personal standards.
  2. You are a high achiever.
  3. You have a crippling fear of failure.
  4. You drive yourself crazy trying to figure out the best way to do something.
  5. You have negative self-talk. 
  6. You have unrealistic expectations of the people around you.
  7. You do critical self-evaluations, beating yourself up for not achieving your lofty goal.

Let’s dive a bit deeper. 

High Personal Standards

Your own standards are set impossibly high; from the outside, those standards look unrealistic. However, you don’t feel they are unrealistic, and you feel strongly that those standards are the only way you can live up to being “good enough”.

As a new mom, this can look like compulsively cleaning the whole time so as not to expose your baby to any germs. Or insisting on doing everything for your baby yourself because you don’t trust anyone else to live up to your standards. 

These high standards can easily lead to or be tied to anxiety disorders because, at some point, you have to let go. You can’t possibly do everything yourself, and you need help.

High Achiever

Whatever you decide to do, you do to the absolute best of your ability, giving a 110% of your focus and energy.

And even though you achieve remarkable results, you likely still criticise yourself for not being perfect.

Fear Of Failure

What drives you to attempt such high standards is an overwhelming fear of failure, even though you might not realise it (yet). 

Failure means you didn’t achieve your own standards, which means you are not “good enough”. Do you see how this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? 

You set unrealistic goals to convince yourself you are good enough, but you fail because those goals are not achievable. Thus reinforcing your unspoken belief that you are not good enough.

Doing Things The “Best Way”

Instead of just doing something to get started, you often get stuck trying to determine the best way to do it before you start.

You’re afraid that by picking the wrong route – or less than perfect route – you will fail. This can lead to indecision, anxiety and, ultimately, inaction. 

As a first-time mom, this can be particularly debilitating. 

There are so many different ways of doing things for your baby – from weaning them to sleep training – and everyone will tell you that you have to follow their advice to the letter. 

Otherwise, they will have you know, you will harm your baby. 

But because these different methods contradict each other, there is no one way to do things perfectly. 

So you end up in a predicament because you don’t know the best route to follow.

how to overcome perfectionism. two women talking.

Negative Self-Talk

Your inner voice is a constant reminder in your head of everything that could go wrong.

You foresee the worst outcomes, are critical of yourself and don’t think anything you do is good enough.

When you combine this with the uncertainty of being a new mom, your mental health can very quickly spiral downward. 

Unrealistic Expectations

Your perfectionist tendencies make you set high standards for yourself but also make you expect those same standards from everyone around you.

And because those standards are unrealistic from the start, you are setting unrealistic expectations for others.

This can impact your relationships since others will feel they could never be “good enough” for you and might just not want to interact with you at all rather than be a constant disappointment.  

This can be a problem as a new mom because you need help. But people will stop helping you if all you do is criticise them for not doing things up to your standards.

Critical Self-Evaluation

Your high standards and negative self-talk join forces and make you very critical of yourself when you don’t meet your high standards.

Nothing is good enough except perfection, but because perfection isn’t attainable, you always fall short of your expectations. So you are overly critical of yourself and beat yourself up for not being “good enough”.

And being a new mom can be very isolating, especially when scrolling through social media regularly. 

It seems as if all the other moms have got things under control, and they know what they’re doing. And then it feels as if you’re the only one struggling. Which reinforces your perception that you are not a “good enough” mother.

how to overcome perfectionism. woman frustrated, holding phone in hand.

How To Overcome Perfectionism

Now that you have an idea of whether you’re a perfectionist let’s look at ways to let go of perfectionism.

1. Know Your Perfectionism Traits

An important first step is to know your perfectionism tendencies. 

Awareness is necessary before you can do anything to change it. We already went through the different signs of perfectionism, and now take a few minutes to think about how they play out in your own life. 

Find specific examples of times when you procrastinated, trying to find the “best way” of doing something. Or when you were mean to yourself when you made a mistake.

As you go about your day, notice when you do these same things again and again. 

Then you can slowly change your behaviour and do away with perfectionism.

2. Be Kind To Yourself

Understand that you are human. You will make mistakes. Everyone does.

So give yourself grace, accept that you will make mistakes, and stop beating yourself up about it.

The next time you realise you’re being mean to yourself, stop and ask yourself if you would speak to anyone else in that way.

If you won’t speak to anyone else that way, why are you doing it to yourself? 

Be kind to yourself, mama.

3. Acknowledge Your Feelings

Typically, as a perfectionist, you fight against negative feelings such as depression or unhappiness.

But if you instead took a moment to feel your emotions – to acknowledge them – and maybe even allow yourself the space to cry, you can focus your perfectionist tendencies on self-care.

For example, if you’ve tried everything and your baby is still crying, just let go. Acknowledge your feelings of helplessness and cry if you need to. Then it will be easier to accept that sometimes babies cry for no reason and that your best is good enough.

4. Set Reasonable Goals

The next step is to set reasonable goals. But that is easier said than done for you.

Talk to someone close to you about your goals and ask for their input. Specifically, whether your goals are realistic or not.

Getting an opinion from an outside perspective will help you with healthy goal setting.

5. Focus On The Positive

Instead of beating yourself up about everything less than perfect, focus your attention on the positives. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What have you achieved thus far?
  • How many people have you positively impacted?
  • How much better is the situation than it would have been had you not done what you did?

And when you do find yourself being overly critical and negative, replace that thought with five positives about the situation.

Over time it will become a habit to replace your negative thoughts, and it will help you change your mindset and break the vicious cycle of negativity.

how to overcome perfectionism woman, frustrated

6. Change Your Self-Talk

You need to catch your inner perfectionist voice talking about everything that can go wrong and keep it quiet, or replace it with a specific, positive phrase, such as “my best is good enough”.

Your inner dialogue has a massive effect on your perception of reality, and by changing how you talk to yourself, you can change your perfectionism tendencies. 

It’s a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.

7. Change Your View Of Criticism

As a perfectionist, you probably take criticism very hard. It feels like a personal attack, and you will beat yourself up for days for earning negative feedback.

The thing is, you can use constructive criticism to improve yourself. Plus, it helps to remember that it’s just one person’s view and not an indictment of your character. 

So take criticism with a pinch of salt, don’t take it personally and view it as an opportunity to improve. 

8. Focus On “Why” Rather Than “How Well”

Focus on WHY you’re doing something rather than HOW WELL you’re doing it. It will remind you what your priorities are. 

When you find meaning in your work, who cares how perfectly it was done? 

9. Cut Out Social Media

Nobody posts their real life on social media, and everyone puts their best foot forward.

And even when you tell yourself that what you see is not the whole picture, your subconscious picks up on it. And before you know it, you feel anxious because you feel like a failure.

“Everyone else has got their act together, living these perfect lives.” you think. “Why can’t I do it?”

Remember that it’s a false picture. It’s much better to limit social media exposure and give yourself a break from these heavy expectations you’re putting on your own shoulders.

10. Go To Therapy

I’m a big believer in therapy. I started years ago and continue to see my therapist at least every six weeks.

It really helps to have someone objective to talk to. They have no stakes in your life, in what you do or don’t do. So you can trust their feedback.

A mental health professional will help you deal with your perfectionist tendencies and help you brainstorm ways to work around them.

And if you don’t find the right therapist right away, don’t despair. Keep shopping around. You will find someone compatible with you and your way of thinking. 

how to overcome perfectionism, woman upset at computer

Final Thoughts

Dealing with your perfectionist mindset is hard work, but you can do it with enough time and perseverance. 

It’s a good idea to break out of your comfort zone, try new things and remember: You’re just a human being.

You’re not perfect, and you’re not meant to be perfect. Making mistakes is a part of life, and it’s how we learn.

The good news is that you can learn and silence that little voice in your mind that is constantly beating you up.

The steps above are important steps to help you deal with perfectionism. Go through them and practise them. These little things can have such a significant impact on your life.

Remember, mama: Your best is good enough!

And if you want to supercharge your faith in yourself, download these FREE affirmations for new moms.

how to overcome perfectionism

Monika Malan

Monika Malan

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