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The stages of burnt-out perfectionists

Recovering perfectionists often fear that if they are gentle or compassionate with themselves that they won't get anything done.


At some point they internalised messages about not being good enough and used harshness to try and kick themselves into getting things done.


The strain of perfectionism is never sustainable.


Eventually exhaustion sets in and many people continue to try and 'be disciplined' by being critical in order to keep themselves accountable, however this harshness is no longer mobilising.


The truth is that the energy that goes into beating yourself up is energy that could go into living your life.


Energy is finite.


Not to mention that constant beating yourself up is demoralising.


Paradoxically, people are actually more effective when they are compassionate with themselves. So, let's all strive to lead with compassion instead of leaning into perfectionism.


Stage 1 Developmental Wound:

There is an early message of being inadequate, weak, or less than.


Stage 2 Compensatory Strategies:

You start negative self-talk and harsh self-punishment to attempt to force yourself to live up to unrealistic perfectionist standards.


Stage 3 Over Compensation:

This harsh manner of treating yourself leads to feelings of depression: meaning it takes more and more harshness to mobilise.


Stage 4 Demoralisation:

Eventually the self-harshness is no longer mobilising. You continue to beat yourself up, not understanding why it isn't working, self-hatred increases and exhaustion sets in.


Stage 5 Burnt-out Perfectionist:

You beat yourself up for your human 'faults' and you're too exhausted to make changes. Misery and self-loathing set in.


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