How Perfectionism Makes Sense

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame. – Brené Brown

Imagine your internal world is like a village. This village is made up of ‘villagers': Your emotions, thoughts, desires, needs. This village makes you who you are.

Often these ‘villagers’ are born as a result of our upbringing, our experiences. Their job description is to keep the village safe, to protect it in whatever way they can – even when this ends up seeming like self-sabotage.

Perfectionist Villager often shows up as a way of helping us out when we are young.

Here are two possible scenarios:

Scenario 1
As a child, the better we were at something, the more praise we got from those around us. We were pushed to be high achievers and this is how worthiness was measured.

Perfectionist Villager showed up and tried to push us to be ‘perfect’, to always be striving and achieving – because in this scenario, achievement (perfection) = love.

This type of perfectionism is about achievement, constant striving, type A personalities.

Scenario 2
Another scenario might be having had a judging, harsh, critical, even abusive environment. In this scenario, Perfectionist Villager tried getting us to be perfect as a way of avoiding criticism as much as possible. In this scenario being perfect = avoiding pain.

This type of perfectionism is more about procrastination, paralysis, avoiding making decisions. It actually looks a lot less like what we would typically associate with perfectionism and more with ‘laziness’ – but as you can see, there is a good reason for this (as there is with everything we do).

In both cases, Perfectionist Villager is trying to do what they think is best for us in their own clumsy way. And at one point in our lives, it made sense.

Yet today, as an adult, Perfectionist Villager – despite his or her clumsy good intentions to motivate or protect us – is no longer serving us.

When we let Perfectionist Villager run the village, we don’t start projects or do things that matter to us because we might fail – leading to procrastination and paralysis.

When we let Perfectionist Villager run the village, we doubt ourselves, we play it safe rather than risk not being good enough at something.

Above all, when we let Perfectionist Villager run the village, the village is not a very cool place to be.

Because Perfectionist Villager operates from a place of fear and shame, telling us we can only be worthy once we are perfect. Yet how can we measure ourselves up against standards nobody can ever reach? Have you noticed that the flip side of striving for perfection is ‘never being enough’?

What would happen if we allowed our wise village chief to run our internal village instead? To make choices that would allow us to still achieve and strive for excellence – without the harshness and suffering that comes with Perfectionist Villager? What if we learned how to work with Perfectionistic Villager, so that he or she was no longer running the village?

If this topic speaks to you and you would like to get to know your Perfectionist Villager better + learn ways of taking back control of your village, join me on August 8 for a workshop in Geneva – find out more here!