ME/CFS And Perfectionism

In this post, former ME/CFS sufferer and Coach Simon Pimenta explores perfectionism and strategies for dealing with perfectionism if you have ME/CFS and this trait.

Note: I am not suggesting that all people with ME/CFS have this trait. I don’t believe that to be the case. Having worked with many people with ME/CFS for 11 years, I observe that some people recognise the trait within themselves to some degree, others do not.

Are You A Perfectionist?

Actually, instead of asking ‘Are you a perfectionist?’, it might be more useful to ask ‘Do you exhibit perfectionist tendencies at times?’ as the former question labels people; it suggests that a person is always a perfectionist, which is unlikely.

Perfectionism is setting excessively high standards and going above and beyond what is required.

Perfectionists tend to:

  1. Be overly self-critical
  2. Take things too seriously
  3. Need to be right
  4. Want things to be perfect

There is the story of an artist who didn’t paint anything, because it wouldn’t be perfect. The paintbox remained unused.

Conversely, Muslim rug makers put a fault in the design on purpose, as they believe that “Only Allah is perfect.”

Perfectionism can be subtle. Feeling annoyed with yourself for something you said or did and dwelling on it may be driven by perfectionism.

I notice that when I write blog articles, some perfectionism creeps in. I have to keep an eye on it, limit the number of times I re-read the article and get it out there!

I have worked with lawyers who tell me they will read an email 10-15 times before sending it to a client.

They sit on it for a day or two, and read it again several times before finally sending the email, having not added any further value.

They recognise that this is fear based thinking.

There have been times in my life when I had a need to be right; the stress I experienced in discussions was perhaps indicative of an attachment to wanting people to see things my way.

Now I am more interested in what’s right, not who is right.

ME/CFS And Perfectionism

How does perfectionism rear it’s head for someone with ME/CFS, who might not have the energy to do much?

You are being perfectionist if:

You find it difficult to leave a task unfinished.

You give yourself a hard time when you make a mistake, overdo it or relapse.

This means that you are taking things too seriously and generating stress, which is unhelpful to your recovery and wasteful of your precious and limited energy.

Click this link to read about strategies for dealing with a relapse

It may be that you were a perfectionist prior to becoming unwell. Some people do let go of that tendency when they became unwell, as they haven’t got the energy to invest in such behaviours.

I recognise that when I had ME/CFS, I was definitely over-critical and perhaps took things too seriously.

3 Steps For Dealing With Perfectionism

Step 1 – Identify What’s Driving The Perfectionism

When you notice perfectionism consider what is driving it. Is it:

  • Believing that you will gain feelings of self worth?
  • Avoiding criticism/disapproval?
  • Avoiding making mistakes?

Step 2 – Pause

Take a moment to clear your mind.

Step 3 – Identify The Pragmatic Approach

Recognise that trying to be perfect is a no win strategy.

No one is perfect.

Some people think they are; I suspect that they are the people who need the most help, but are the least likely to seek it out!

Consider what constitutes a good enough job?

When you have the desire to keep going with a task, when your body is telling you to rest, consider what is more important. Is it:

  1. Getting the task done?
  2. Having a rest and putting some energy in the energy bank? If you consistently do this, it is likely that you will feel more able to do more, over time.

Going back to the example given above about lawyers, usually when the person reflects on the fact that they have not made lots of errors in the work they send out, they recognise that re-reading the email 3 – 5 times maximum is enough.

This frees up time and boosts productivity.

Closing Thoughts

If you recognise the perfectionist trait, decide to take active steps to let go of this trait. Your body will thank you for it.

Where could you conserve your energy and actually enhance your energy by doing so?


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simon  SIMON PIMENTA is a hypnotherapist, coach and trainer working with people to boost resilience and performance, and minimise stress.

After working in a demanding job as the Director of a Housing Trust, he went off sick and remained unable to work for the next 8 years.

He discovered a pioneering approach to resolving health issues and got back his health, and now trains others using these same techniques.

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The Power Of Anchors: Changing Unhelpful Responses

Recently, I bought a ready made salad with a dressing.

As I ate it, I spontaneously started thinking about my time working on a summer camp, back in the 80s.

I was curious to know where that thought came from, as it seemed to pop out of nowhere.

As I pondered this, I realised that the salad dressing was very similar to the dressing used at the summer camp!

This blew my mind, that my thinking could be triggered by a taste.

This is an example of an anchor; when a stimulus can trigger a particular response, in this case a memory.

Anchors Are Powerful

Another example is when we hear a piece of music and it instantly takes us back to a particular time in our life.

Anchors can be negative: Continue reading

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5 Steps To Stop Worrying What Others Think

Do you worry too much about what other people think?

Perhaps you are concerned that you have upset them by something you have said.

Worrying too much about what other people think can be a trait that is present in some (but not all) people with ME/CFS and in people without this condition.

It can be exhausting and a waste of energy!

5 Steps To Stop The Worry Habit

1. Recognise The Pattern

If you think you have said or done something that may have upset another person, you could ask them if you have upset them.

However, if you are doing this too often, then it may be that it is a pattern that you may find useful to break. Continue reading

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ME/CFS: 6 Steps To Beating Binge & Bust

Maslow’s hierarchy proposes the theory that people are motivated to meet their needs in order to thrive, from basic needs; physiological needs, to higher needs; such as self esteem, self-actualization and self-transcendence (a term he added some years after the initial model he proposed).

We all have needs, that if not met, will have consequences.

I appreciate that getting your needs met when you have ME/CFS and don’t have the support you need, can make life difficult.

Binge & Bust 

One thing I noticed when I had ME/CFS, is that I would go through a cycle where I would: Continue reading

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ME/CFS: 5 Steps For Saying No

In Danny Wallace’s book, Yes Man (a very funny, daft and uplifting book), the author meets a man on a bus who tells him to say yes more, in response to hearing Danny say he has got stuck in a rut.

He sets himself the challenge of saying yes to everything. It results in many adventures, some amusing, some potentially detrimental. For example, he nearly ended up in a fight and if I recall correctly, taking some pills of dubious quality he bought online.

One of his learnings from the experience is that he needed to be discerning and say no in some situations!

Anyone with ME/CFS would love to be able to say yes more, but are unable to due to extreme physical and mental exhaustion, and other symptoms. Continue reading

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ME/CFS: Are You A Helper?

A trait often present in people with ME/CFS is that of the helper.

This is the person who is keen to help others.

It can be a good trait.

However it can also become an unhelpful one, that is detrimental to the person doing the helping, because they are not taking care of their own needs.

Continue reading

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5 Steps To Becoming Solution Focussed

In this post, Coach and Trainer  Simon Pimenta explores the topic of  how we can shift from over-focussing on problems to being solution focussed.

Some people tend to focus on and dwell on a problem, whilst others, having identified a problem, very quickly start to focus on considering solutions.

One way of spotting when people are getting stuck on a problem, Continue reading

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Is Stress Affecting Your ME/CFS?

In this post, former ME/CFS sufferer and Coach Simon Pimenta explores the topic of:
1. What stress is
2. A simple strategy for assessing how much stress you might be experiencing

3. How you can identify strategies to reduce stress, that may result in health and energy benefits.

What Is Stress?

When I ask people this question, people will often say that stress is:

The feeling of being out of control
Sweaty palms, heart beating ten to the dozen, etc.
The really big stuff- starting a new job, moving house, giving birth, dealing with a loss

Definition Of Stress

Continue reading

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My Easter Dream

Some years ago, when I had ME/CFS, I went to bed the night before Easter Sunday.

I had an interesting and powerful dream. It was one of those dreams that was so vivid, that it stayed with me.

In my dream, I was climbing the steep slope of a snow covered mountain. As I climbed, I had to focus intently on what I was doing. I had to proceed slowly, with care. At one point, I slipped back down the mountain, perhaps 20 feet.

I felt frustrated by this setback, which had happened many times. Continue reading

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ME/CFS & Exercise

In this post, former ME/CFS sufferer and Coach Simon Pimenta explores the topic of  how ME/CFS sufferers can approach exercise without triggering symptoms.

There are many benefits of exercise. There is strong evidence that being physically active is good for your health and has a protective effect.

It has the following beneficial effects:
It improves immune function
It improves brain function: studies show it improves intelligence
It protects body against stress
It improves general body function

Exercise should include: Continue reading

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