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Is Perfectionism Hindering Your Progress?

Welcome to the 3rd post in the Patterns that Hinder Progress blog series. (If you missed the first two posts, you can find them here and here.)

This week we are talking about a pattern that many retainers are familiar with!

It prevents some people from getting starting brain retraining and it can make it more challenging to do exercises/rounds.

It increases fear and hypervigilance and also contributes to burnout and exhaustion.

The sneaky pattern that I am talking about is PERFECTIONISM!

Let’s play a little game!

The game is called “You Might Be a Perfectionist If!”

You Might Be a Perfectionist If…

  1. You are a high achiever but you procrastinate or avoid tasks that feel challenging in fear of making a mistake. Mistakes feel devastating!

  2. You find it difficult to celebrate your successes, especially small wins and progress.

  3. You think in all or nothing terms. (black and white thinking)

  4. You have trouble asking for help or delegating.

  5. You like to be the best and might avoid situations where you are not.

  6. You sacrifice your own well-being to make something perfect.

  7. You have an inner critic that is harsh and demanding.

Do any of these sound like you?

If so, chances are you may be bringing perfectionism into your brain retraining practice too! That might look like:

  • Worrying if you’re doing enough to heal or if your rounds are good enough.

  • Frequently researching other programs, tools, or treatments.

  • Pushing through and throwing your limbic system into the deep end out of an urgency to get back to "normal."

  • Being critical and harsh with yourself if you don’t measure up to your daily standards.

  • Not celebrating your small wins and focusing more on what isn’t going well.

  • Comparing your progress to others.

  • Filling your day with brain retraining activities even though it’s exhausting and draining. Retraining is your full-time job and only focus for months on end.

If any of those sound familiar to you, you are not alone! MANY brain retainers are experts at perfectionism and overachieving!

The problem with perfectionism though is that it actually activates the stress response and keeps the limbic system hypervigilant. It strengthens the maladapted pathways that you are so diligently working to rewire!

Ultimately, perfectionism is rooted in fear. Fear breeds avoidance, control, resistance, fighting, or shutdown. Makes sense then why perfectionists often develop a limbic impairment, right? All of these behaviors are sympathetic or dorsal dominant behaviors that produce stress neurochemistry.

If perfectionism is so unhelpful, then why do we use it?

Perfectionism is a survival strategy that your brain uses to protect you from pain and shame. It’s often learned at a young age as a reaction to stress, trauma, or pain. It’s not a very effective strategy, but it was probably the best option available to you at the time!

One of my favorite quotes about perfectionism is by Brene Brown. In her book The Gift of Imperfections, she says,

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”

In my own life, anytime I find myself practicing perfectionism, I think about this quote and get curious about what pain or shame my protective parts are trying to shield me from. Once I know that I am able to tend to those parts with empathy, love, and acceptance.

This is so much more to say about the process of breaking up with perfectionism and I will continue this conversation in my next post in 2 weeks!

Stay tuned for practical strategies for how to unwire perfectionism so that you can live in more love, peace, and wonder!




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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Jan 25, 2022

This is very insightful and helpful!

Katie Nickerson
Katie Nickerson
Jan 25, 2022
Replying to

I’m so glad it was helpful to you Amy! Thanks for letting me know!

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