Avoidance, Perfectionism, & Narcissism

Self-harm while most associated with physical self-harm, can manifest as emotional self-harm too.  Physical and emotional self-harm are both used as coping strategies to process complex emotions, cope with trauma, or provide some sense of relief.  Read below for 3 examples of what emotional self-harm can look like and recommendations on how to work through them.


As a coping mechanism, and form of self-harm, avoidance can easily give problems more space to grow as it reduces stress in the short-term while allowing more anxiety, higher levels of stress than the initial stressor, and can create conflict within any relationships in the long-term.

Psychologydictionary.com defines avoidance as “the practice or an instance of keeping away from particular situations, activities, environments, individuals, things, or subjects of thought because of either (a) the anticipated negative consequences of such or (b) the anticipated anxious or painful feelings associated with those things or events.” 

Replacing avoidant patterns with active coping mechanisms is a method that involves learning to recognize your triggers and developing plans to address stressors.  Some good ways to reflect on triggers include journaling and meditation.  When developing your action plans, talk with your therapist to gain additional support and insight.  Once you have your plans in hand, reach out to your support network for additional help and accountability.


Perfectionism is a trait that exists on a spectrum and there is no such thing as a perfect perfectionist person. Psychologydictionary.com defines perfectionism as “the propensity to require of other people or of oneself a greater degree of performance than is mandated by the scenario.”  In smaller doses, perfectionism can be a good thing.  For example, taking the extra time to tidy your house a specific way or paying extra detail to a project can be considered a good thing.  However, putting the requirement on yourself to keep your house perfect every single day or taking more hours than necessary to go above and beyond on projects can be unstainable and harmful.

Working through the self-doubt and self-criticism of perfectionism involves techniques that encourage flexibility and compassion. Your therapist can teach you a variety of skills and coping mechanisms derived from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that can help dismantle the perfectionist mindset.  For more information on CBT and DBT, check out our Tabono Tidbit: CBT vs DBT.


Narcissism can exist as a personality trait or as a personality disorder. Cambridge Dictionary defines Narcissism as “too much interest in and admiration for your own physical appearance and/or your own abilities”,  While narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is characterized by a lack of empathy, a strong need for admiration, and a pervasive pattern of grandiosity.  The presence of narcissism as a personality trait does not automatically that you have NPD.

Narcissism exists on a spectrum, and just like perfectionism, can be helpful in small doses.  It becomes a problem when self-love becomes closer to self-obsession or self-absorption.  Narcissism becomes a tool for self-harm when it impacts relationships by diminishing empathy for others or even impacting yourself by turning this self-love into something bordering on a perfectionistic and toxic mindset. 

Talking to your therapist and coming up with a plan to address unhelpful and self-harming narcissistic thoughts is a great step in working through the damage that is being done.  Like perfectionism, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) techniques are common treatments for tackling unhelpful narcissism.  For some examples of healthy ways to practice self-love before your next therapy appointment, take a look at our Tabono Tidbit: Self-Love.

Help is just a conversation away and we are here to listen.  Take the first step by reaching out to speak with one of our licensed therapists through our Contact Us page, or by calling us directly at 513-846-5283. We look forward to hearing from you soon!


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