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Breaking Up With Perfectionism

In my last blog post, I wrote about the role that perfectionism plays in limbic system impairment. If you missed it, you can find it here!

To summarize that post, perfectionism is a protective mechanism that activates the stress response and keeps the limbic system hypervigilant. It strengthens the maladapted pathways that we diligently work to rewire through brain retraining! That is why it is important to address this pattern during your healing journey so that it does not continue to create unnecessary stress!

How does one overcome perfectionism? In this post, I will share some strategies and approaches that have been helpful to me in my journey!

First, it’s helpful to practice identifying when we are operating in perfectionism. For me, some clear identifiers are when my self-talk sounds critical and harsh and I’m holding myself to a really high standard where mistakes are unacceptable and shameful. Dead give away that I’m operating out of perfectionism!

Another indicator of perfectionism for me is procrastination. If I am avoiding a task or project, it’s often because I’m afraid that I am not good enough or that I will fail.

Ultimately, perfectionism is rooted in fear and so we must address the fear in order to change the pattern. When I notice that I’m running the perfectionism pattern, I pause and ask myself, “What am I afraid of?” It is usually fear of experiencing some kind of pain - fear of being seen as a failure, fear of being rejected, fear of being alone/abandoned, fear of feeling shame, etc.

Next, the key is to move towards yourself with kindness and validation, not judgment. For me that looks like taking a deep breath, placing my hand over my heart, and speaking to that scared part of me and saying, “I see that you’re feeling scared about ___. I totally get that! Of course, that would be scary. Thank you for you trying to protect me but the truth is that I love you and accept you no matter what! … (or whatever else that part of me needs to hear.)”

Another practice that has been transformative for me in the perfectionism journey is CELEBRATION! Perfectionists often focus on what isn’t going well and where we could improve. Intentionally focusing on what is going well, what we can celebrate about ourselves or our actions helps train the brain to notice these things in the future. It also interrupts the stress pathway and causes our brain to release helpful DOSE neurochemistry and calm the amygdala.

One simple way to do this is to say, “Self, I am really proud of you for ….” and fill in the blank with small things that you can celebrate. The smaller the better! Some examples could be: “you took a shower! Look at you go! Or “I’m proud of you for doing a round. You’re prioritizing yourself and your healing.” or “I’m really proud of you for answering that email. I know that took a lot of energy or courage.”

The truth is, there is always something to celebrate. Whether or not you believe that, you are doing your best and no matter what that looks like for you, it deserves to be celebrated. No matter what anyone else is saying or has said to you, you don’t have to be perfect to be celebrated and loved. And it is YOUR job and your exquisite HONOR to celebrate yourself. Withholding love and celebration for yourself serves no one.

You can do this anytime during your day but one of my favorite ways to incorporate this into my life is to spend a minute or two at the end of the day while I’m in bed to review my day and find some things to celebrate. Again, the smaller the better. That could be celebrating that I put on clean clothes for the day (ha), or I was kind to the grocery store clerk, or I checked one task off of my to-do list, or I made a healthy meal for myself, or I allowed myself to rest and enjoyed a few episodes on Netflix. Remember, there’s always something to celebrate.

For all of the recovering perfectionists out there, what are your favorite ways to interrupt the perfectionism pathways and redirect your brains towards love? I’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions in the comments!

Until next time!




Katie is a brain retraining coach who helps men and women access their innate healing wisdom to rewire their brains and thrive in life. Her approach focuses on embodiment, practical wisdom, and intuitive insights.

For more information, find her on IG at @katienickersonhealth.

Or sign up for a free consult here!

She can also be reached at

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