The Need for Perfection

By Allie Brickman

We’ve all grown up picturing aspects of our ideal life and our ideal selves. And striving for improvement is a normal and healthy behavior. It’s when we don’t allow ourselves to experience satisfaction in what we’ve accomplished thus far and when we put ourselves down for not being what we consider ‘perfect’ that we run into trouble.

We can be our own worst critics. Our parents may have thought otherwise, but often times growing up we didn’t need anyone to tell us a bad grade was bad. Why? Because it felt…bad. And whether it’s their voices in your head, or your own, it’s easy to develop an inner dialogue, which repeats, “You’re not enough. You’re not good enough. You need to do and be better” over and over again.

This brings up an essential point in REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), which I use with my clients. Psychologist Albert Ellis, the founder of REBT therapy, introduced what he called his ‘ABC theory.’ A is an activating event, B is a belief you associate with that event, and C is the ultimate consequence, which can be both emotional and physical. If the activating event is that you don’t get the job you interviewed for (A), and you believe that you need to be perfect and if you don’t nail an interview you are no longer a person of worth (B), then, consequentially, you will likely experience deep sadness and a lowered self-esteem (C-Emotional) and may not put yourself out there for another interview (C-Physical).

We need to dispute the faulty belief (B) that says you must be perfect and that one instance defines who you are. Just because you fail at something does NOT make you a failure, and just because you screw up does NOT make you a screw up. No one is perfect and holding yourself to that standard prevents you from appreciating your strengths and truly loving yourself.

This leads us to the concept of ‘Unconditional Self-Acceptance,’ another important aspect of REBT Therapy. It refers to (you’ll never see it coming…) an unconditional acceptance of yourself! Flaws and all. This is not to say that striving for improvement should be eliminated. Rather, that allowing yourself room for failure, and supporting yourself rather than beating yourself up in the process, is the goal. If you’d like some guidance in this rewarding process, feel free to contact me at

... Visit us on Google+ ...