11 Psychological Traps That Limit Your Potential, And How To Avoid Them

Photo: Joel Mott | Unsplash 
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As human beings, we tend to be much harsher on ourselves and overly critical of our performance than we would be on any other person. When the negative dialogue we have with ourselves becomes paralyzing, it’s time to seek some support. To get you started, I'm going to share with you fifteen small (but significant) ways you can help yourself out a spiral that is limiting your true potential.

But first, let's identify a few psychological traps people fall into that lead to a paralyzing negative inner monologue. If you relate, scroll down for some simple solutions. 

RELATED: 8 Ways Toxic Perfectionism Seeps Into Your Life & Sabotages Your Happiness

11 psychological traps that limit your true potential 

1. All-or-Nothing Thinking

Sounds like: “I misspoke in my talk today, and the whole presentation was a disaster.”

2. Negative Labels Thinking

Sounds like: “I messed up. I’m such a loser and screw-up!”

3. 'Shoulding on Yourself' Thinking

Sounds like: “I should be doing better than I am.”

4. Catastrophizing Thinking

Sounds like: “What If I get this wrong and then I get fired, then I’ll be broke and homeless?”

5. Fortune-Telling Thinking

Sounds like: “I’m sure my colleagues thought my presentation was terrible as they were looking at their phones.”



6. 'Glass is Empty' Thinking

Sounds like Because I made a bad dessert the whole meal was ruined.”

7. Two-faced thinking

Sounds like: “It is okay for others to make spelling mistakes but not okay for me.”

8. Dramatized Thinking

Sounds like: “Because I made a mistake at work, I am a failure as a human being.”

9. Emotional Thinking

Sounds like: “I feel super anxious; therefore, I know I am going to give a bad talk.”

RELATED: 5 Small-But-Painful Triggers For People With Imposter Syndrome



10. Martyr Thinking

Sounds like: “If my work team does not win the bid, it is entirely my fault.”

11. Crystal Ball Thinking

Sounds like: “I just know I am going to give a bad presentation.”

Perfectionism can be a challenging obstacle to overcome, but it is not insurmountable. By implementing these 15 practical tips for overcoming perfectionism, you can take meaningful steps toward becoming flawless as you break free from the suffocating grip of it in all areas of your life! Perfection is an unattainable illusion, but self-acceptance and personal growth are achievable goals that lead to a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

Photo: Cabeca de Marmore- via Shutterstock

15 practical tips to combat your self-limiting thought patterns

1. Recognize your strengths (and your shame triggers)

Recognize your strengths and shame triggers. Inward self-reflection and curiosity can help dial down the inner critics as you learn to give yourself self-love and acceptance instead. As you acknowledge the presence of perfectionistic tendencies in your life and embrace your awesomeness, you’re expanding your emotional intelligence and peace of mind.

2. Remember this: You are enough

Often, the limiting belief of not being enough is the underlying cause driving perfectionism. By continually reminding yourself that you are enough, you can quiet the negative thought loops, replacing them with self-love instead.

3. Challenge your high bar

Are your standards unrealistic? Is the bar you’re using to measure your excellence way too high? Evaluate the standards you have set for yourself and consider whether they are realistic and attainable. Be willing to adjust your expectations for greater peace of mind and confidence.

4. Practice the 80/20 rule

Ask yourself, how can you do 20% to get 80% of what you want? This starts to retrain your brain that the ideal of 100% perfection is not required and, with repetition, can quiet the mind and calm the body.



5. Set realistic goals

Establish achievable goals that allow room for mistakes and setbacks. We all make missteps. It’s a natural part of learning and personal growth.

6. Learn to delegate

Instead of thinking, “No one else can do it as well as I can,” consider all the time, so you’ll have to focus on other things or relax with family and friends. And realize that the fresh perspective and actions of another person on your project can potentially teach you something new as well.

7. Get out of the weeds

Learn to take breaks from the perfectionistic overachieving to step back and see the bigger picture of what you are looking to accomplish. These pauses can give you a fresh perspective on what’s important vs. what is urgent so you can reprioritize your day instead of getting caught up in the “just work harder” mentality or perfectionism-driven procrastination.

Photo: Bordovski Yauheni via Sutterstock

8. Practice self-compassion

Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, especially during moments of failure or imperfection. Replace self-criticism with self-compassion.

RELATED: What Is Betrayal Trauma? How To Identify & Heal The Wounds

9. Stop minimizing yourself

When someone compliments you for who you are, what you’ve achieved, or how you look, say “Thank You,” allowing yourself to take in their kind words and praise that you deserve.

10. Limit social media

Reduce exposure to social media platforms that promote constant comparison. Unfollow accounts that trigger feelings of inadequacy or shame and focus on your journey and well-being.



11. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Incorporate mindfulness and relaxation practices into your daily routine to effectively manage stress and anxiety. As you learn how not to sweat the small stuff, your need for perfection will diminish.

12. Celebrate yourself & your progress

Shift your focus from achieving the perfect result to the progress you make along the way. Celebrate your efforts and achievements, no matter how small they may seem. This naturally gives your brain a mood boost of the neurotransmitter dopamine (a.k.a. one of your happy chemicals!).

RELATED: 5 Small-But-Painful Triggers For People With Imposter Syndrome

13. Learn from mistakes

Embrace mistakes as valuable learning opportunities. Analyze what went wrong and how you can improve, then move forward with newfound wisdom and clarity, knowing what you now know that you didn’t before.



14. Redefine success

Reevaluate your definition of success. Shift your perspective from seeking external validation and comparison to other people’s standards to prioritizing your own personal fulfillment and overall well-being through your unique contributions to the world.

15. Seek support

Reach out to friends, a counselor, a coach, or a hypnotherapist who can provide emotional support and guidance as you navigate the challenges of releasing the obstacles of perfectionistic thinking.

Perfectionism, a relentless pursuit of flawlessness and an aversion to making mistakes affects individuals from all walks of life. The underlying trauma that created perfectionistic thinking comes in a variety of forms, and what it leaves behind can have a lifetime of negative effects. In the book, Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Perfectionism by Sarah J. Egan, Tracey D. Wade, Roz Shafran, and Martin M. Antony, we learned there are a variety of unconscious ways that can get our minds caught in a pattern of perfectionistic thinking.

RELATED: In 20 Years Of Coaching Clients, I’ve Learned The Root Cause Of Anxiety

Michele Molitor, CPCC, CHt, is a certified coach and hypnotherapist, and co-author of the book Breakthrough Healing. She assists high-achieving professionals in reducing their overwhelm and reclaiming their self-confidence, calm, and clarity to create a thriving life and career.