Understanding & Overcoming Perfectionism


“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that field this primary thought: If I look, live, and do everything perfectly, I am avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame judgement and blame” (Brene Brown). For perfectionists, it’s not about striving to be your best by your standards, but about succeeding in other’s eyes as a way to validate your self worth and earn the love of others.

Most perfectionists develop this tendency in childhood when we are praised for our appearance, performance, and how we please others. We like the attention we get when we please our parents, so we keep trying to please them in order to keep the steam of attention and praise coming in. We become dependent on other people’s approval for our own self worth, and hooked into an addictive cycle of people pleasing.

The trouble with relying on other people’s perceptions of us for our own self worth is that, it’s impossible to control what other people think. It’s a fruitless quest, and one that always ends in failure, which can trigger even more control and perfectionism, creating a vicious and addictive cycle that leaves the soul exhausted and unfulfilled.

One of our most fundamental needs as humans is for love and connection. When we don’t match up to our own expectations for perfectionism… we feel shame. When other’s don’t match up to our expectations…we blame. Both of these result in feeling isolated, unfulfilled and disconnected. If we don’t do our work to transform perfectionism, it procreates and is passed down to all those around us, and we push away those closest to us.

For the perfectionist, it can be terrifying to put any creative project out into the world, because we attack our self worth to our creations. Perfectionism can lead to exhaustion, paralysis and addictive sabotaging behaviors. It shields us from achieving our biggest dreams and ironically keeps us stuck in mediocrity.

Hi, my name is Lizzy and I’m a recovering perfectionist. For me, perfectionism seems to lurk around every corner, and has saturated my life. I don’t want anyone to see my messy house, or my messy emotional state. I’m much more comfortable with people thinking I have it all together.. and the beautiful irony to all of this, is that I know that this ‘shadow’ tendency gives birth to my greatest gifts: Sharing myself authentically and embodying my vulnerability, being an invitation for others to love themselves exactly as they are, and to create meaningful and intimate connection.

I grew up in a family that praised me for being beautiful and pleasing others, and connected through ‘roasting’ each other, and poking fun at each other’s differences. I have moved far away from my family since but right before a visit to see them, you could usually find me at the mall, buying a few new things to soothe the part of me fears that I’m not enough as I already am, and to protect me from feel ostracized for my differences. I’m aware of this habitual pattern and the underlying beliefs and fears that it stems from. I might even still end up at the mall and buy a few things for my trip, but as I shop, I shop for myself… buying what I might feel good in, rather than what I believe might be most pleasing to my family. I am re-programming my mind to believe what I know in my bones to be true: that I am worthy of love as I already am. Every time that impulse arises to feel shame for my unshaved legs, my edgey haircut, or lack of a ‘real job’, I put my hand on my heart and remind myself that, ‘I am enough’, ‘I am who I am, and who I am is beautiful”, “there is nothing to prove” “ I offer myself the love I seek”

My perfectionist tendencies also show up around sharing my gifts with the world. I love things to be polished and beautiful before I share them, and deep down I know that there is a part of me that fears other people’s negative opinions of me. I know that I have judged others who are sharing themselves in the ways that I want to share myself, because I have been envious of that freedom to share and let go of what other people think, and I’m scared of being judged. But I don’t believe we can ever truly control or ‘save ourselves’ from what other people think of us, and is it worth not ever putting ourselves out there and moving towards the live of our dreams? Hell no. I can actually use my mind to talk myself out of perfectionism and encourage myself to hit the share button on Facebook , but I also have to address that very real fear, and that tender child within, that fears she will be ostracized and starved of love and affection if she messes up. I get to shine my loving awareness on this tender part of myself and offer her the love and compassion that she needs.  For truly, through love, all is healed.

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