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Self-Trust & Self-Doubt: The Oil & Water of Perfectionism

From spending thousands of hours with high-achieving and perfectionism women, I've realized that two total opposite things exist in their mindsets:


They have immense trust in their ability to perform as well as equally immense self-doubt.

This huge internal conflict can be debilitating. It's a constant "I can do it" vs "no, I can't." This can affect their professional lives, personal relationships, and how they view themselves. Keep reading as I explain this paradox and give some real-life examples of how it manifests in all types of women with different life paths!


The Paradox from Different POVs

Perfectionistic women typically have a strong belief in their competence and capabilities. They're often highly educated, skilled, and accomplished. However, this self-assuredness is simultaneously undermined by pervasive self-doubt. They constantly question their worth, fear failure, and worry about meeting impossibly high standards.


Sarah, the Corporate Leader & Career Woman

Sarah is a senior executive at a big corporation. She has climbed the corporate ladder through sheer determination and hard work. Her colleagues admire her competence and leadership. You'd never know it, but Sarah struggles with self-doubt daily. She constantly second-guesses her decisions, fearing that any mistake could undermine her credibility. Despite her successes, she feels like an impostor, attributing her achievements to luck rather than her skills.


The impact of this is that Sarah's self-doubt leads to over-preparation, long working hours, and chronic stress. She finds it difficult to delegate tasks, fearing that others might not meet her high standards. This sometimes limits her team's growth and, when it gets really stressful, manifests itself in burnout and physical health issues.


Emily, the Devoted SAHM

Emily decided to leave her corporate job to raise her two young children. She dedicates herself to their upbringing with the same intensity she once applied to her career. Emily trusts her ability to provide a nurturing environment but is plagued by self-doubt about her worth as a stay-at-home mom. She worries that she’s not contributing enough financially or that she’s not doing enough to stimulate her children’s development. There's always a new craft or activity around the corner to try, or another rule about screen time she "should" follow (per the Instagram "experts").


The impact of this is that Emily's self-doubt manifests as an endless quest for parenting perfection. She exhausts herself with meticulously planned activities, constantly comparing herself to other mothers. This leaves her feeling inadequate and overwhelmed, diminishing her enjoyment of motherhood.


Lisa, the Task Juggling Working Mom

Lisa juggles a demanding job as a marketing manager with the responsibilities of raising her three kids. She prides herself on her multitasking abilities and her dedication to both her career and family. However, Lisa struggles with self-doubt, feeling that she’s failing on both fronts. At work, she worries that her family commitments are seen as a lack of dedication. At home, she feels guilty for not being fully present for her children.


The impact of this is that Lisa’s self-doubt drives her to overcompensate, working late nights and sacrificing personal time. She rarely asks for help, fearing it might be seen as a weakness. This constant striving for perfection leads to burnout, affecting her productivity and her relationships.


Solutions for Navigating the Perfectionism Paradox

To navigate the push & pull of self-trust vs. self-doubt, here are some fun and unique solutions!


Decide what you'll be a C student in. In what areas are you okay with being "good enough", or average? Consciously choose areas where you can accept “good enough” rather than perfect. For example, at work, set clear boundaries on project hours and accept that not every detail needs to be flawless. At home, simplify routines and accept help from others.


Have a journal dedicated to confidence. Document your daily accomplishments, no matter how small. Reflect on challenges you overcame and decisions you made well. Over time, this will help reinforce your self-trust and provide tangible evidence & experiences to counteract self-doubt.


Assemble the peanut gallery. Select a small group of trusted friends who can relate or provide objective feedback and support. Open up and talk about your self-doubt and seek their perspectives. Their external validation can help balance your internal doubts.


Validate your own decisions often. Each time you make a difficult decision on your own, affirm your reasoning process. Say out loud or write down why you trust your choice and what skills or knowledge you relied on. This reinforces your ability to trust yourself.


Wrap-Up

The struggle between self-trust and self-doubt is a common yet challenging experience for perfectionistic women. If any of this blog resonates with you, know that I have spent years and thousands of hours with women just like you so you're not alone whatsoever. By acknowledging this paradox and taking proactive, specific steps to manage it, you can cultivate that more balanced perspective you've been craving but aren't sure how to harness. Remember, it’s okay to trust in your abilities while also giving yourself grace. You're just enough the way you are!


 

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Greta Strickland, MS 

Licensed Professional Counselor  


Greta has managed her own private practice in Blue Springs, MO since 2015 providing therapy to high-achieving women who struggle with anxiety and perfectionism. When she's not working, you can find Greta watching Big Brother with her husband, singing made up songs to her daughter, and sneaking "people food" to their golden retriever.

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