Recovering Perfectionist Problems

If you’re a high-performing, ambitious entrepreneur, chances are you’re a bit of a perfectionist (or a recovering one).

I know I’ve personally been down that rabbit hole, and it’s not a very fulfilling one: the path of the perfectionist has a whole lot of self-shaming, unreasonable expectations on the self, and exhaustion on a soul level.

I was reminded of this again in a recent session, where a client was shaming herself for her perfectionist tendencies.

She could see it loud and clear: how her perfectionism was holding her back from expressing herself authentically, making her spend way too much time tweaking and readjusting details, and constantly questioning whether her work was “good enough.”

Frustrated with herself, she threw her hands up in the air and asked me:

“How do I get rid of this?!”

My answer?

“You don’t.

You don’t get rid of ANYTHING.”

At first, she looked at me puzzledly.

I explained:

“You don’t want to get rid of perfectionism. You just need to integrate the shadow side of it.”

You see, it’s such a natural knee-jerk reaction to pick at our flaws. We obsess over them, and want to “get rid of them.”

The issue is that the very act of wanting to get rid of a part of ourselves signals that we don’t accept or love that part of us. 

Which means we aren’t actually releasing the flaw, we’re pushing it deeper into our unconscious (for it to come out viciously when we least expect it).

Read that again.

As a mentor once shared with me, your mind is like a Jenga puzzle: if you keep tossing pieces out, the whole structure crumbles. The real genius of the game is figuring out how to rearrange the pieces to make the whole structure stand stronger.

In my work, we don’t toss out pieces of your story. We integrate them so it makes you stronger.

This looks like lovingly reflecting on the “flaw” you’re so frustrated with and asking:

What’s the light, and what’s the shadow of this trait?

For example, the light side of perfectionism is:

  • You really care about what you’re doing.
  • You want to do things right.
  • Quality matters.

These are AMAZING qualities to have. Why would you want to toss them?!

It’s the unintegrated shadow that’ll cause you grief:

The need to get everything *just* perfect before it can see the light of day, which means you overwork yourself and hold yourself back from success by obsessing over things and not really moving the needle forward, instead of rolling up your sleeves and getting things done imperfectly but effectively.

It kills me when I see people going through this, because the greatest irony of it all is…

You’re whole and perfect exactly as you are.

It’s not about “getting rid of”, but rather integrating:

  • Recognizing the survival mechanisms that no longer serve you.
  • Releasing the guilt and the shame anchoring them in.
  • Fully feeling and accepting where you’re at right now.
  • Appreciating the gifts that come with this trait.
  • Forgiving yourself when you slip up.
  • Rinse, and repeat.

The deeper we heal our shadows, the more gifts they have to offer us.

With conscious awareness, your perfectionism can be transmuted into desirable traits that propel you forward rather than hold you back.

What quality do you have that you often throw shade at? And, how can you give that part of you some love today?

Remember…. The very parts of you that you’ve shamed in the past, have SO much to give back to you once you’ve integrated them.

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