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Healing Perfectionism, Reclaiming Authenticity, Intimacy and Ease
I'd say that for a fair number of people I see in my practice, perfectionism is at the heart of what ails them. The immediate symptom may present as physical illness, insomnia, anxiety, depression, inability to form a healthy relationship, chronic pain… you name it. But perfectionism is a primary cause—if note THE primary cause—of the problem.
There's nothing wrong with having high standards. But that's different from perfectionism. Wikipedia describes it thusly: "strain[ing] compulsively and unceasingly toward unobtainable goals, and measur[ing] … self-worth by productivity and accomplishment."
The Energetics of Perfectionism
It's exhausting! The immense self-vigilance and control suck up so much energy that it's hard to have enough left over for creation or love—especially self-love. The perfectionist sacrifices joy and pleasure to her/his compulsion. Even health is often sacrificed.
Constantly striving for unreachable standards cripples our life force—chokes it off. Instead of channeling energy into the forward motion of life, the flow of life energy stalls out in an endless circling back around that tries to suppress every thing, no matter how small, that's viewed as less than perfect. Thus perfectionism kills ease and spontaneity—the effortless, joyful being plugged in to Source Energy, being in the flow.
Energetically, the perfectionist is walled off from others by fear. Perfection itself is the wall. No one can get inside, making real intimacy very difficult.
Perfectionism is based on an inner sense of unworthiness and a fear of rejection. Because the perfectionist tries so hard to control everything that emanates from them, their true essence is suppressed. Their authentic self never gets out, for fear it will not be good enough. Instead, what gets out is a sanitized, cookie-cutter version of the self, one that has the social stamp of approval.
Perfection Is An Illusion Anyway
It's not as if you have to choose between life-withering perfectionism and being a complete slacker. There IS a happy medium. And that happy medium is something the perfectionist should strive for.
All that suffering is especially ironic because perfection isn't possible for us humans. Nor really, is it desired. An illusion is all we can really attain, and creating the illusion closes you off—from others, from your own creativity, from achieving your heart's desires, from the life force itself.
Mistakes Can Help Us Move Forward!
And anyway, mistakes are evolutionary. They are how we learn and get to the next level. Just watch a baby learn to walk. They learn by falling down over and over again.
And in nature, mistakes in the DNA are crucial to the process of evolution. No mistakes, no evolution.
As the poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen said, "Forget your perfect offering./There is a crack in everything./That's how the light gets in."
Healing Perfectionism, Embracing Your Humanity
Here's some thing you can do to bring more beautiful, human, balancing imperfection into your life:
- First, stop aiming for perfection. It doesn't exist. If you're pushing hard for that last bit of perfection…let it go. Aim for better, or good enough, and leave it at that. Them move on to the next thing.
- Practice making small mistakes. Have a goal, say two or three minor mistakes a day. Embrace them. Make it a game.
- Practice healing perfectionism by allowing yourself to be a beginner in something. Take a class on something you've never done before, and allow yourself to let go of outcomes.
- Notice your "shoulds" and "musts," both spoken and unspoken. Where do they come from? What is underneath them?
- When you notice perfectionism setting in, ask yourself, "What will happen if this is not perfect?"
- Practice showing someone your imperfections. Start small. Notice what happens.
- Write yourself a permission slip: "Permission to be human." Carry it with you and look at it whenever you are hurting yourself with perfectionism or harsh self-judgment.
- Work with your chakras to help you in your quest toward healing perfectionism:
- your first chakra to develop a basic sense of self-worth, trust and belonging in the world;
- your second chakra to encourage pleasure and flow;
- your heart chakra to develop self-love;
- and your 5th chakra to help you express your authentic self.
- There are lots of ideas for working with each of your chakras in my book, Chakra Care.
Good luck on your journey toward healing perfectionism. You're human—embrace it!
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