The Whole Person Blog: Week Nine, Day One, Part 2/2 - Letting Go of Perfectionism
Sunday, February 23rd, 2020
Guidepost #2: Cultivating Self-Compassion - Letting Go of Perfectionism
I grew up in an environment where emotional safety was non-existent. I've come to learn the compensation for a lack of safety and inner substance is a need for control. For me, one way control manifested was perfectionism. I figured if I could appear perfect, I would minimize the risk of being singled-out, pegged as an imposter, or made to feel inferior. The danger, of course, is that others would validate how I already felt about myself: not good enough. Trying to be perfect (someone I wasn't), overtime, became so heavy, and humiliating, and erosive, that I eventually hit rock bottom, with Reality firmly reminding me that my approach to life was unsustainable.
"Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect; we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It's a shield. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it's the thing that's really preventing us from taking flight.
I stumbled upon a quote by Dr. Robert Holden: "No level of self-improvement will ever make up for any lack of self-acceptance." It hit me like a ton of bricks that I was trying to use self-improvement as a substitute for self-acceptance, and all the while, I was self-rejecting. No wonder why, after all that I had accomplished, I continued feeling worst. It was one rejection after another, each one tarnishing the minimal amount of dignity I had left. On the search for self-acceptance, I came to realize the foundation for it is self-understanding. Unless we understand ourselves, how we came to be who we are, we have no basis for accepting ourselves, and therefore, no capacity for improving ourselves either.
"The thing that is really hard and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself." Anna Quindlen