As seen in Today's Parent 

As seen in Flare Magazine

Click above to read a recent article with citations from Anu

Anu Sharma-Niwa,
M.A., R.Psych.
Registered Psychologist 

Phone: (403) 990-4159
(confidential voice mail)


Office Location 

Mount Royal Village:
501, 1550 8th Street SW
(at 16th Avenue)
Calgary, AB 

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Entries in Self-Esteem (2)


Flare Magazine Article

I was recently interviewed by Caitlin Kenny from Flare Magazine to contribute (from a psychological standpoint) to her article, “Your Views on Beauty”.  It was so much fun!! Fashion magazines are such a fantabulous way to continue to spread the word about why women tend to feel more pressure than ever to look beautiful…and the toll this pressure might be taking on their health and well-being.  Her article is now published in the September 2011 issue of Flare magazine (Page 110) and is available at a newsstand near you. Get your copy today! I would love to hear your feedback!! 


The Quest to be the Best

 Are you motivated by fears of failure or a sense of duty?

Do you feel driven to be #1, but despite however great your accomplishments might be, they don’t seem to satisfy you for long? 

Do you feel you must earn your self-esteem by being “special” or intelligent in order to be loved or accepted by others?

Do you feel so terrified by failure that not accomplishing an important goal leaves you feeling depressed?

Do you think you must always be strong and in control of your emotions…especially vulnerable feelings of sadness, insecurity or anger for fear that others will think less of you? 


If you have answered “yes” to all of the above it looks like you could very well be a “Perfectionist”.   Perfectionism is very common and also a very hot-topic in my practice.  I also like to consider myself to be a “recovering perfectionist”.  I have been in the “maintenance phase of healthy pursuit” for several years now, but it took a bit of work to sway this way.  It is pretty common to have an inner drive to improve your performance but it is important to remember that perfectionism is NOT a healthy pursuit of excellence!  

The healthy pursuit of excellence is when: 

  • You are motivated by enthusiasm
  • Your efforts give you feelings of satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, even if you are not always the greatest at the task at hand. 
  • You enjoy a sense of unconditional self-esteem because you don’t feel you have to earn love and friendship by impressing people with your intelligence or success. 
  • You are not afraid to fail because you realize that there isn’t one person on earth who can be successful at all times. Although failure is certainly disappointing, you perceive it as an opportunity to grow and learn. 
  • You are not afraid of being vulnerable or sharing your feelings with people you care about because you see this as an opportunity to form a closer bond and deeper, more meaningful relationship with them. 

Many people (including myself at one time) will argue that they would not be able to succeed if they did not have some element of perfectionism.  And while many perfectionists are undoubtedly successful, what is important to be cognizant of is that this is likely due to other reasons. There is no evidence that perfectionists are more successful than their non-perfectionistic counterparts.  However, there does exist, empirical data to support that given similar levels of talent, skill and intellect, perfectionists perform less successfully than non-perfectionists.  


Perfectionists tend to be filled with all sorts of negative and self-sabotaging internal chatter that promotes low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, which can significantly interfere with your social, academic and occupational functioning. Perfectionists tend to be “all-or-nothing” or “black or white” thinkers (i.e. see things as only good or bad, but nothing in between), which often leads to trouble in a world that is not black and white but many shades of grey. This line of thinking promotes feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed by anxiety, therefore decreasing productivity and increasing procrastination. 

The work involved with making the shift from perfectionism towards a healthy pursuit of excellence involves setting more realistic goals and using cognitive therapy to replace that negative self-condemning chatter with more realistic and reasonable thoughts.  It will involve taking some pretty simple strategies and applying them consistently with practice in order for them to become more automatic.  In the meantime, try making a list of the advantages and disadvantages of trying to be perfect.  In doing this cost-benefit analysis, you may find that this line of thinking has been causing problems with your relationships, feelings of inadequacy, “workaholism”, burnout, body image issues, disordered eating, or substance abuse issues. If this is the case, the costs may actually be outweighing whatever advantages perfectionism holds for you…


Adapted from: The Feeling Good Handbook (David D. Burns)