The Balancing Act: ‘My Perfectionism Gets In The Way Of My Parenting’
Every other week, Sonali Gupta draws on more than 10 years of experience as a clinical psychologist to give advice to readers with questions about parenting, family dynamics, relationships, mental health, and more.
Picture Perfect: I have always been a high achiever, and my perfectionism is stressing me out. I think this is coming in the way of parenting my 2-year-old baby.
Sonali: The ideal of a perfect parent is an illusory one; it is not humanly possible for anyone to be always right or always in charge. As parents and professionals, all of us have moments of vulnerability wherein we make mistakes. Only when we are able to forgive ourselves and accept our mistakes, can we allow ourselves to learn and explore and become the best possible version as people, as parents; our self-forgiveness and acceptance makes it easier to allow children the same space for learning, exploration and growth, too.
It sounds like your perfectionism is starting to consume you and lead you to lose the little joys of watching your child grow. This may be a good moment to ask yourself where your need for perfectionism comes from. More importantly, ask yourself what it signifies for you when you feel pressured to be a perfect mother. Parenthood is an opportunity to discover sides to our personality that were previously blind spots. It is important to integrate them and work through it.
I would suggest you work with a psychologist to understand and redefine your own standards so they work in your favour.
Other People’s Lives: I feel very anxious when I look at Facebook profiles of my peers who are successful.
Sonali: You’re not alone – everyone else on Facebook looking at your and others’ profiles is feeling the same way. Research points toward a phenomenon called Facebook Envy, which involves jealousy, coupled with frustration, leading to sadness as well as deep-seated feelings of low self-worth. And social psychologist Ethan Cross conducted an interesting study that found the more time people spent on Facebook, the less happy they felt.
Read more about social media-related depression on The Swaddle.
This is because social media creates an illusion of glamor. Facebook is a curated version of our social and professional selves. We consciously make a choice about what we choose to put out on a social media platform — and what we hide.
That’s not to say social media is bad; it’s all in how we use it. High usage, viewing random profiles, and an already existing low mood can combine make you feel more vulnerable. In my practice, I have found people often use social media as a way to distract themselves as they wait for emotions or circumstances to improve; however, this way of using social media often leads to a further downward spiral.
Remind yourself that nothing external can intimidate you; it can only trigger an existing vulnerability. And consider meeting people face-to-face more often, as Ethan Cross suggests; notions of success and affluence created on social media may not actually reflective your peers’ personal happiness or life situation in the real world. If you still find it difficult to manage your concerns, I would suggest you meet a psychologist who can help you assess and manage the internal sources of your anxiety over self-worth and self-doubt.