Why Perfectionism is killing your health, happiness and business: Why Perfectionism is bad.Sep 30, 2022
Since I love to really delve deep into all things energy, and what causes energy blocks, I want to focus on ‘Perfectionism’ for this content piece.
The reason why is because as a coach, I see the programming of ‘Perfectionism’ as a real struggle for many people. There was a time in my life too that it was a problem for me, so I get it. I also highly value the opportunities that come with overcoming this debilitating trait (or as you will find out it’s actually a learned habit). So I want to provide you with the benefit of understanding why Perfectionism is NOT a good thing, and how you can take immediate action to overcome it.
What is Perfectionism?
It is a fear-based pattern. Often embedded as a defense mechanism, most likely after a real or perceived traumatic event. It’s a constant striving for excessively high performance standandards accompanied with a highly critical regard for self and others for fear of not being good enough.
Signs that you might be a Perfectionist
- Can get very anxious about small details and “get stuck”
- Often feel overwhelmed with the mental attachment to doing everything
- Rigid and controlling - believe they can do it best, and that no one else can do ‘the job’ as good as them.
- Demanding and critical of both self and others, often imposing their exceptionally high standards on everyone else.
- Workaholics - whether their role is taking care of the home and family or work (or both) because they take on the load of everything themselves, believing that they can do the job best.
- Often big procrastinators - Since the ‘Perfectionist’ often has a focus on doing it “just right” they are more likely to put things off until they can accomplish that - whether it’s to tidy the house, clean the car, complete a project or take action on a new goal.
- Have a lot of difficulty asking for help, even when they crash and burn out.
- Constantly struggling with self-doubt wondering if whatever they do is “good enough.”
Where does perfectionism come from?
As I previously mentioned, I’ve experienced being in the mindset of being the ‘Perfectionist’ especially through my teen’s, 20’s and 30’s.
Having done a lot of introspective work, and lots of healing, I can pinpoint the exact root cause for my own maladaptation when I shifted into ‘being perfect.’ For me, it was during lower highschool. I was not that interested in class. While I could do the work, I was bored, and would zone out, draw or occupy myself by sending handwritten notes to friends in the class. This led to me getting ‘C’s’ in my report cards.
So my parents bribed me with giving me $10 for every ‘A’ that I would bring home in my end of semester report cards for my middle-year in high-school.
Two weeks before the end of the first semester, I received the results back for a test in human biology class and got 98%. I was stoked! Over the moon with myself, and as I quickly rode my bicycle home with a grin on my face I imagined my dad giving me the praise I had forever longed for. But when I got home, I walked into the kitchen to tell my parents (my dad worked from his home office, and mum was mostly home to care for myself and my two brothers). When I burst forth with excitement sharing my 98% test results, the very first comment out of my dad’s mouth was “what happened to the other 2%?”
My world froze at that moment.
Imagine being stabbed in the gut with a Japanese sword, and the blade committing hari-kiri. Because that’s exactly what that felt like to that 15-year old version of myself.
The message was clear, that I needed to get 100% to be good enough, to be accepted, and maybe finally get the love, praise and attention I so desperately ached for. So, believing that I needed to get 100% to be good enough, when I received my report card two weeks later, and saw that I had 5 ‘A’s’ and 1 ‘B’ on my card, my immediate thought was disappointment. It should have been exciting (and two weeks prior, before the 98% incident, I would have been stoked with myself). But all I could imagine, and fear, was my dad now saying “what happened to the 6th ‘A’?”
So I peddled home slowly, feeling defeated, that day. And I was hesitant to share my report card. I felt deeply sad, anticipating feeling “not good enough.”
And with full predictability my dad at the time said, “What happened with the B. Why didn’t you get 6 A’s?”
So the message was made louder and clearer than ever. You gotta be perfect to get my praise, and feel worthy.
I got $50 richer in my pocket that day. But my heart was aching and my soul felt lost.
My thought process was “if I just try harder, I’ll be perfect [and get his love].”
So by the end of term two, when I got my second report card for the year, I was jumping with delight when I got six A’s. I've done it! I finally did it! And my mind raced with the images of my dad picking me up and twirling me around as his dear little girl, that he expressed love for. That was the fantasy I always had. So I went home feeling confident of my achievement.
That was greeted with “well you’ve proved yourself now. I’m not paying you money, you’ve shown you can do it.”
So my next lesson in that message was not only do you have to be perfect, but continue to achieve impossibly high standards and don’t expect to be rewarded or celebrated.
As an adult, or any logical thinking human, you can see how that patterning can drive a person to achieve at all costs, and never acknowledge yourself, and do not stop, because there is no finish line.
For someone else, that may have made them give up completely. I’m sure the trail of humanity is littered with folks like that. But the person who adopts the ‘perfectionism’ program will not give up, they just suffer deeply while they continue forward trying to achieve the unattainable. The true reason for being a ‘perfectionist’ is not about gaining something material or even for status; it is driven by an emotional need to be worthy of love.
The root cause of ‘Perfectionism’ is a desperate desire to avoid the fear of disapproval and rejection. It’s a low vibrational energy that only attracts more low vibrational results.
Why is Perfectionism a problem, especially for the coach, teacher, or heart-centered entrepreneur?
One of the BIG challenges for someone running the pattern of ‘Perfectionism’ is they absolutely dread the idea of being ‘criticized.’ Since for the ‘Perfectionist,’ everything is run through the filter of the fear of “not being good enough” it means they are often afraid of disapproval and rejection, so they are rarely open to any feedback, including valuable constructive feedback, as they take it personally if they get it. And to their even greater disadvantage, a ‘Perfectionist’ will rarely even ask for feedback in fear of having their fear of “not being good enough” validated.
It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of emotional and mental hell.
Here is perhaps a painful truth, but a liberating thought to the coach, teacher or entrepreneur. Being focused on being ‘Perfect’ is entirely self-focused, rather than service-focused. One can be aesthetically polished and appear to have everything ‘perfect’ but the true energy of appearance demonstrates an artificial layer and screams a lack of authenticity to their audience, students and clients.
When someone is not being real, even if we can’t pick it up consciously, the subconscious mind does. It is felt as an awkward feeling in the body. And may even be present in thoughts like “I’m not sure about this person.” Which means there is a lack of trust experienced by the audience, student or client.
That is a BIG problem.
Perfectionism will really block the coach, teacher, or entrepreneur from truly connecting and providing the optimal shifts with their audience, students and clients because it sends the message that “I don’t believe I’m good enough. I have to appear as perfect to be accepted. And so do you.”
What genuine transformation can occur under that spell-casting of that energy?
Honestly, not much of a transformation, if at all.
So it makes sense then, that it would be a really good idea to begin the habits to let go of being ‘perfect’ and embrace instead self-acceptance to live, teach and lead as your authentic, kind, loving self, doesn’t it?
What’s the solution to Perfectionism?
The goal is to change to positive self-talk and shifting habits to focus on celebrating progress, not perfectionism. It’s also about embracing your authentic self, through self-acceptance. That requires a willingness to forgive yourself and others who you may believe hurt you, let you down, or who didn’t live up to your expectations in their role. It also requires you to let go of any attachment that you believe your happiness is tied to getting your emotional needs met by someone else. To do so, delays your own healing, impacts your mental and emotional health and gives away your power.
The shift begins when you decide to love yourself no matter what, including all parts of yourself. Embracing all your perceived flaws and owning all your strengths leads to an integrated life, living authentically and enjoying every step of the journey; including the messes and successes.
And if you are a coach, healer, creative, teacher or heart-centered entrepreneur, then when it comes to helping others, it’s not about perfectionism, but rather the focus needs to be on transformation; Helping people shift into real results, through progress, not being ‘perfect’.
Has this article been helpful?
Please let me know. And definitely feel free to share it with a friend or someone you know who might be struggling with ‘Perfectionism’ so they can benefit from these insights and next action steps to overcome it too.
Everyone is deserving and worthy of love.
Author's final note:
You may be left wondering about my dad. The thing is, we are all subject to the programming and social conditioning of family, society, culture, education, media, movies and more. In addition to that, unresolved trauma perpetuates trauma. What we don’t resolve ends up being a bleeding mess on others who didn’t cut us. Some of us are more courageous than others and inclined to face the shadows within to do the inner work. That’s our Soul’s calling. And when we do, we create healing far beyond ourselves. We heal our ancestral lines. We heal our communities. We heal the world. It all begins within ourselves. Without the experience and learnings from my teen years, I wouldn’t have the insight and wisdom to help so many people; that positive impact is my focus with my work and mission today. So my final words about my experience is that I am deeply grateful, and hope too that you can find that peace within yourself to experience inner healing and actualising your full potential too.