Happiness, Positive Psychology

What is Self-Compassion?

self-compassion therapist los angeles

We’ve all been there. We made a mistake at work, we were unkind to our partner, or we were late to an important recital for our child… and then starts the outpour of self-criticism.

“What a stupid mistake! No one else here ever makes mistakes like that.”

“Why would I say such a thing?! I’m such a jerk.”

“I’ve disappointed my daughter, again. What kind of crappy father am I?” Continue reading “What is Self-Compassion?”


Does My Child Have an Electronics Addiction?

electronics video game cell phone addiction

In the past seven years or so, I’ve seen a noticeable increase in teens and emerging adults with unhealthy relationships with their electronics. They’re relying on their cell phone, the internet and social media, or video/computer games in a concerning way. In such a technology-driven world, it can be difficult to know if the behavior is normative or a legitimate cause for concern… Could it really be an electronics addiction?

How do you know if your child has a problem?

Continue reading “Does My Child Have an Electronics Addiction?”

"Failure to Launch", Adulting, Emerging Adulthood

What is Emerging Adulthood?

what is emerging adulthood

I’ve been a one-woman crusader, educating people in Los Angeles about emerging adulthood and its implications on young people’s lives. I’ve seen the “aha!” moments when describing this new developmental period to parents, professionals, and emerging adults . Something clicks and everything is seen with a new, helpful perspective.

Continue reading “What is Emerging Adulthood?”


Why You’re a Perfectionist (And How to Handle It)

The American Psychological Association recently published research indicating that perfectionism in our young people (e.g., adolescents, emerging adults) is on the rise. This doesn’t surprise me at all, as I’ve worked with numerous teens and emerging adults struggling with perfectionism. It seems to be especially prevalent in the high-achieving families and private schools in Los Angeles.

The Damaging Consequences of Perfectionism

I probably don’t need to espouse all the dangers of perfectionism… you’ve likely seen the repercussions, either in yourself or your child. Perfectionism is associated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and early death. Basically, it’s the secret ingredient for a miserable life.

Where Does Perfectionism Come From?

There are numerous hypotheses about where perfectionism originates. The simplest answer is probably: it depends. Each individual I’ve worked had differing reasons (or combination of reasons) for their perfectionism. One researcher suggested that social media plays a part in perfectionism. This makes perfect sense if you think about it. Now we can spend hours observing other people’s (curated) lives on social media, and we’ll inevitably end up making some comparisons.

Other research suggests that the competitive market and rise in meritocracy is contributing to perfectionism. In such a competitive market, there’s intense pressure to prove that you’re the best candidate in order to get a good job and secure financial independence.

Perfectionism is also associated with certain kind of personality characteristics. People who are perfectionists tend to dislike novelty. They also tend to be more dependent on external reinforcement (e.g., rewards, praise from others). Additionally, perfectionistic people are great at persisting towards a goal in the face of exhaustion or frustration.

Another source of perfectionism I’ve seen in my own private practce is the need to be cared for and accepted. Individuals, consciously or not, believe their self-worth and lovability is linked to their achievements and ability to be perfect. They believe that people will reject them or love them less if they cannot perform “up to standards”.

Tools to Manage Your Perfectionism

Not all of these tools will work for everyone, but here are some commonly used tools to manage perfectionistic behavior:

Directly Challenge Perfectionistic Thinking

Don’t buy into your self-critical thoughts or catastrophic thinking. Instead of accepting this self-talk as automatically true, practice challenging those thoughts. For example, you might think that if you don’t spend five hours on your power point presentation for work, it won’t be any good, and you’ll be overlooked for an upcoming promotion. Instead of letting that thought run amok in your mind, challenge it by instead thinking, “My work track record is pretty stellar, and my presentation is pretty good. Plus, my supervisor won’t even bet there for my presentation!”

Engage in Self-Compassion

People who are perfectionistic tend to be self-critical. They believe this self-criticism is needed to keep them motivated to achieve. This may be true, but it also erodes a person’s sense of worth and well-being. Instead, try to engage in self-compassion. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Remember that being imperfect is part of the human condition. And try to experience your anxiety about imperfection without judgment and being swept away by the anxiety.

Keep Things in Perspective

Perfectionists sometimes get bogged down in the details in an effort to make everything perfect. Does the exact font you use for your presentation really matter? Probably not. Sometimes it helps to ask yourself a few questions to those details that are driving you crazy into a little perspective. Try asking yourself the following:

  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • If the worst happens, can I tolerate it?
  • Will this still matter tomorrow, next week, or next year?

Slowly Let Go of Perfectionistic Standards

It’s unreasonable to go from striving for perfection to settling for “good enough” the next day. Think of reducing your perfectionistic standards as stepping down some stairs. The first step might be spending four hours working on your presentation, instead of five hours. The next time, maybe you’ll only spend three hours and so on. As you slowly let go of those unrealistic standards, you’ll also probably begin to realize that nothing horrible is happening as a result.

This is probably the hardest thing to try. Try to remember that lowering your standards doesn’t mean you’ll have no standards. You’ll still continue to put out quality work, but it will no longer cause you undue stress or prevent you from finding some work-life balance.

Practice Being Imperfect

This probably sounds like an insane suggestion, but it’s actually quite genius. If you set out aiming to make mistakes and be imperfect, then the thing you’ve been so afraid to do actually becomes a success! Also, when we avoid things, we give it all the power; the relief we feel from avoiding things further reinforces avoiding it, and the vicious cycle goes on. By intentionally making mistakes, it takes all of the power away from that fear of making a mistake. Additionally, as you experience being imperfect and making mistakes, you’ll probably realize that you’re resilient enough to tolerate imperfection. Plus, you’ll probably realize that horrible thing you imagined would happen if you messed up actually doesn’t happen. That’s definitely a win-win-win-win!


Is perfectionism causing you strife? Contact Dr. Crystal I. Lee for a free 20 minute consultation to see how she can help.

Anxiety, Depression

Simple Emotion Regulation Skills to Help You Build Resilience

Adolescence and emerging adulthood are stressful developmental periods, full of intense emotions (positive and negative!). Luckily, there are emotion regulation tools to increase emotional resilience and decrease vulnerability to future unpleasant emotions.

Continue reading “Simple Emotion Regulation Skills to Help You Build Resilience”

Adulting, College

Graduation is Nearing, and I’m Freaking Out!

Graduation is Nearing, and I'm Freaking Out!


I originally wrote this article for an undergraduate newsletter and thought it would be fun to share here as well. Enjoy! 

Graduating college can be a thrilling accomplishment, and it can also be the cause of a lot of stress. You were independent in college… but you’re going to be Independent (yup, with a capital “i”) once you graduate. Ugh, that sounds really heavy, right? Continue reading “Graduation is Nearing, and I’m Freaking Out!”