Addiction to PerfectionBy Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006
Do you believe that if you are perfect you can control how others feel about you? This article will help you understand your addiction to perfection and how to heal it.
The following email was sent to me by Karen, a member of our website:
"For no obvious reason this morning, I was feeling anxious and depressed. I looked at it and realized that the false belief creating all this was that I have to be perfect in order for me to allow myself to feel happiness. Yet, there are so many conditions for me to be perfect that it is almost impossible to achieve. Still, I have driven myself to be 'perfect' sometimes and discovered that the ensuing happiness lasts about 2 seconds and I am exhausted.
"Lately, procrastination is somehow wrapped up in this conundrum too. Maybe I don't even try things because I know if it's not done perfectly I won't value it anyway. Most of my life, my critically inspired drive propelled me to achieve some amazing things (including opening my own business in L.A.). Somehow, I feel that if I don't criticize and punish myself then I'll never go anywhere or do anything. Yet the truth is, right now, I'm not really productive. There must be another way!"
Needing to be perfect is a form of control. The wounded, critical part of us believes that, "If I am perfect (whatever that means!) then people will like me, love me, admire me, approve of me, pay attention to me, or validate me. Then I will feel worthy. I can control how people feel about me by being perfect." The need to control how people feel about us comes from making others responsible for defining our worth. The false belief is that if someone likes you, then you are worthy, and then you can be happy. But, as Karen said, "the ensuing happiness last about 2 seconds and I am exhausted." Trying to be perfect is exhausting and the good feelings are very short-lived.
In addition, having to be perfect in order to gain approval often leads to procrastination. The fear of disapproval and failure if you are not perfect can be so great that it stops you from taking the action you need to take. Judging yourself to get yourself to do things "perfectly" often backfires, leading to paralysis instead of creativity and productivity, as it has with Karen.
Karen states that, "There must be another way!" There is, indeed, another way - a much better way.
When you decide to define your own worth instead of handing that crucial responsibility to others, you will stop worrying about what others think and feel about you. The problem is that, for most of us, our parents and other adults defined our worth when we are young. Of course we saw adults as having the authority to do that. As we grew older, we gave our peers the authority to define us. But at some point, we need to shift from others having the authority to define our worth to our own higher, wise self or spiritual Guidance having the authority.
In addition, we need to shift from defining our worth based on external qualities to our worth being based on internal, intrinsic soul qualities. As long as your worth is based on performance, you will worry about results. But when your worth is based on your intrinsic qualities of caring, compassion, goodness, empathy, and joyfulness, then it is never on the line regarding your performance. This will free you to create and produce with freedom and joy, knowing that you can make all the mistakes in the world and still be worthy. Perfection never comes into the picture when your performance is a joyful expression of your intrinsic worth, rather than a form of controlling what others think and feel about you.
When you consistently practice Inner Bonding, opening to learning with a higher authority about your true, intrinsic worth, and embrace the beauty and wonder of your beautiful essence, you will stop thinking about perfection, performance, and what others think about you. You will know that you are already "perfect" in your essence, and that there is nothing to prove.
When you know your worth as intrinsic rather than based on your performance, life becomes so much easier and less tiring. Instead of your addiction to perfection immobilizing you, you are free to fully express yourself and manifest your gifts and talents. Expressing yourself creatively and productively becomes fun rather than fearful!
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Today, focus on your physical health. Are you conscious of what you eat? Are you getting enough exercise and sleep? Are you noticing the thoughts that cause stress? Today, practice becoming conscious of your physical wellbeing.
By Dr. Margaret Paul