Like many other people I wore the label of perfectionist as a badge of honour. I claimed it as the reason I over worked, as the reason I rarely got anything finished and the reason I would get up at night to clean! Perfectionism is actually nothing more than a state of fear. Not only that, it is also often the excuse given to ourselves and others for acts of self violence. We all have standards, some of which we deem higher than others. And perfectionism is part of the chorus of voices from the ego that perpetuates the feeling of not being good enough. We push ourselves to exhaustion, we burn out, we neglect ourselves and our families, we passively aggressively lash out at those around us and we feel vilified in our judgments. Perfectionism excuses all of this and let's be clear, it would rather see you dead than flawed. The pathology of perfectionists is the desire to beat order out of chaos. Most have a deep need for control and when it can't be achieved internally then they will strive to pull their environment and the people within them to pieces in order to create a percieved harmony. Unfortunetly harmony is not part of the perfectionists modus operandi, sometimes they can achieve minute points of relief in the rare cases where they have achieved what they have set out to do but because perfectionism is fear then that quickly changes.
I liken perfectionism to a mild OCD except the compulsion is not to create the order of objects but the create a persona, an exagerated version of the life that they are living. Perfectionism is one of the few states of fear that is celebrated culturally because it demands that you give all of the power from your life over to the opinions and thoughts of others. Quite often the “perfection” that is sought is an ideal given to you from someone else. Dealing with perfectionism is not easy because of the celebrated aspects of it and to unwind it means that you will have to face whatever perfectionism is hiding. That can be tough if you have built a whole life from the outside in. I know when healing myself through this struggle or through parts of it, I make no bones that I was ever a dedicated perfectionist, that it took courage on my part to stop everything I was doing and sink into what that business was hiding. I think sometimes perfectionism is just swapping one form of chaos for another. What I found when I dived into what was lurking behind my behaviour and the illusion of control was, and always is, unresolved pain.
When I dealt with the pain behind the compulsion the compulsion withered. It's like the wizard of Oz, when you pull back the curtain and see what's there it's not scary any more. It isn't even that powerful. So much of our power is given away because we are afraid to look at ourselves but when we do look inward it actually gives us more. Knowledge isn't always power but it is always empowering. If any of what I have said today rings true, not just for perfectionists, but people who are control freaks, those who laugh at their inability to trust, acknowledge that what you are experiencing is fear. It's learned. It's probably as a result of some past trauma or aquired habit and more importantly, it can he healed. You don't have to walk around with that knot in your gut. You are worthy of a life that feels good. You are worthy of enjoying the moment. You are on this planet to collect memories and engage with other human beings, give yourself that priviledge by pulling back the curtain.
Thank you for reading,
Ryan James x
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