Perfectionism v. True Value

Dearest Reader,

In the Italian woods now, we’re making our way back home to Ibiza tomorrow to prepare for our wedding. After loads of travel, I’ve been wrapping up projects and the past.  I feel well traveled by more than just miles, and quieted by the focus of juggling many balls simultaneously on a few different continents.

Over the last few years of wrestling with self-doubt, loss of direction, and wondering what it’s all for… something different is organically shifting from a more denuded place within.  It silently whisper’s “own who you truly are, claim yourself, know your true value.”   Naked and vulnerable, it teaches me to rise up to something else I haven’t known is inside of me.  It shows me that potential is realized by taking the risk to live it.   Like knowing you can fly – though first you’ve got to leap – and voila, out sprouts wings!

How are life’s demands, twists, and turns landing for you?  Breathing?  I find allowing for the process and self-acceptance helps lots. Slowing down faces me with an old coping mechanism I didn’t know was there…. surely it’s a way to unconsciously self-protect:  it’s called perfectionism. Ouch, it just doesn’t allow for life’s lumps, bumps, unexpected curves, and things we cannot control.  What a load of pressure, and it may set us up for failure if we’re not aware of what’s driving us on a deeper level.

Do you suffer from perfectionism?  It looks something like this:  the mind locks onto a goal, idea, or belief (or combination), then like a terrier, it sinks its teeth in and just won’t let go. We go to great lengths and personal suffering to assure it’s done to our definition of perfect.  Thing is, that definition is variable, and changeable according to the perceiver.  It may not really be perfect, though as long as the perfectionist thinks so, then it may become her holy grail, and trap her in a pursuit that can be quite the double-edged sword, holding her hostage to a perceived value, causing her to miss her true worth.

Engaged healthfully, maintaining balance between the gas and the brake, perfectionism can help us excel to excellence. Playing full out beyond the pressure of perfectionism, we can concoct incredibly potent forms of medicine that are exactly what the doctor ordered. Used as an unconscious coping system to mask not feeling good enough on some level, it will likely have backlashes. Gone OCD, we may not register:  when we’ve done enough, the toll of tunnel vision, the pressure cooker, and perhaps most important… we may not have investigated our true value.

Possessed by perfectionism, when Ms./Mr. Perfectionist is unconsciously at the helm, we may not get much of a break and find ourselves pleasing and proving, overworking, self-criticizing, being hard on self (and others), self-punishing…. and well, a whole lot of “self” busyness that can get tiring. Meanwhile, the soul screams to be heard, and we may even find ourselves acting out with substance, sex, food, etc. Perfectionism can be hugely addictive. Modern culture is largely based on how we perform, how much we get done, and there are rewards and punishments that ensue.

Many on a “spiritual path” may use practices (meditation, yoga, cleansing, etc.) to perfection in an effort to redeem our past and gain esteem, though we still may not be enveloped and held by our true value.  The tendency to measure and mark our “progress” through a sense of accomplishment may outweigh our true worth, and mainly serve to cover what brews beneath.

Don’t get me wrong, in my view, perfectionism is neither a good or bad thing. Perhaps how we use it is more the question.  If we use it to cap our discomforts and pains, it may simultaneously limit the realization of our potential.  The good news is, used consciously, it can also serve as an opportunity to dig deeper within and tap the source of our true value, helping us to reclaim what isn’t contingent on how much or what we produce.

Here’s to the Great Strip Down and Denuding that perfectionism often resists and masks. May we trust delayering and de-armoring which often comes in the form of changes in career, relationships, moving, and simply not knowing our way at times.  Here’s to perfectionism helping us to be our best, above performance and production. .

My love & support to you,

Dr. Amy

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