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Motherhood + The Illusion of Perfection

Motherhood + the illusion of perfection

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” -Anne Lamott

Perfectionism is a personality trait that drives a person to strive for flawlessness by setting unrealistically high standards for themselves or others. Often, perfectionism is accompanied by critical self-evaluation and an unrelenting concern about the opinions of others.

What makes perfectionism unhealthy isn’t merely having overly high standards or wanting things to be a certain way; it’s the critical, inner voice that never turns off and shows no mercy. If this inner voice was a real person, we would never in a million years want to hang out with them! The inner voice is sometimes loud and prominent, sometimes it sneaks into your otherwise innocuous daily thoughts. Sometimes we see it coming and sometimes we wake up to it only after its already burrowed in and captured our mind.

What we know about perfectionism

Perfectionism is an attack on our self, and it taps into our threat system, causing our body to think we are in danger. In the same way that physical danger triggers a physical response in our brain, the inner voice attacking us to be ‘perfect’ challenges our self-image, triggering many aspects of the same ‘fight or flight’ brain responses. It negatively impacts our physical health, defeating our will and undermining our motivation. It creates distance and separation in our relationships with our children and spouses. And for the mom, this overwhelming desire for perfection is often driven by our need to be what we’ve been told is a ‘normal’ mom; the mom that doesn’t make mistakes, is prepared for every occurrence, the mom that everyone wants to be.

It’s important that we create distance between ourselves and society’s view of the ‘normal’ mom, the perfect mom. If we are constantly focused on what is wrong with our lives, what needs perfecting, what should be better, how could we be living the life that we actually have?

What can we do about it?

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, here are 3 simple ideas that can help to interrupt the pattern and re-focus your thoughts towards a gentler, accepting and less judgmental inside voice.


Take the time to notice what’s going on in your head.

No judgment, just curiosity.

What’s your inner voice saying?

How do you talk to yourself?

What’s your immediate response when things don’t go the way you planned?

Be aware of the language that you’re using.


When you notice the negative self-talk you are engaging in, you can replace those words with kinder, more gentler words. Speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a baby or a good friend.

With more kindness and self-compassion, your internal dialogue might sound a little bit like this:

“You’re a human being and this is hard. This is a difficult time and that you’re doing your best. There is no playbook for motherhood but you’re loving these kids and taking care of them and you’re doing a great job.”

#3…Gratitude practice

Gratitude is the antidote. It will bring us into the present moment. It will shift the focus and quieten the noise in the mind.

Spend a few minutes reviewing what you’re thankful for. It could be your health, your breath, your home, the sun, your dog, your kids, your partner, your coffee – whatever makes you feel good NOW, write it down.

Ex: I’m grateful my heart.

I’m thankful for my garden.

I’m thankful for the stars.

I’m thankful for clouds.

I’m thankful for my eyeballs.

I’m thankful for running water and electricity. (see…anything!!)

How do you practice moving away from perfectionism?

Need to talk to somebody? At Therapy for Moms, we provide counseling and therapy services for parents in Houston Texas. Contact us to schedule a session.