Perfectionism is often viewed as a character trait, something to be proud of. However, the truth is that perfectionism is not a desirable quality, but rather a coping mechanism developed to deal with deeper emotional wounds and insecurities. It is a way of sabotaging your growth, healing, and transformation – the very things you long for.

Table of Contents

This blog is generated by AI based on our video about this topic. You can watch our video below. Prefer to read on? Just scroll down below the video. 

Perfectionism as a Collective Coping Mechanism

In our society, which is often dysfunctional, demanding, and oppressive, we learn from a very young age that our worth is tied to our results, our accomplishments, and the value we deliver. This belief system, ingrained in us from childhood, leads us to create perfectionism as a way to feel safe, avoid shame and guilt, and ultimately, feel worthy.

Perfectionism: Fear of failure & Shame

At the heart of perfectionism lies a deep fear of failure, a fear of being exposed as a “fraud,” and a fear of being deemed unworthy of love, validation, and recognition. This fear is rooted in a belief that if we are not perfect, we will be rejected, abandoned, or disconnected from the people and the world around us.

The primary emotion that drives perfectionism is shame. Shame is a deeply internalized belief that we are inherently flawed, unworthy, or deficient in some way. This shame, often stemming from negative childhood experiences, emotional neglect, or relational trauma, leads us to believe that we must be perfect to be loved, accepted, and valued.

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Childhood Trauma & Perfectionism

Perfectionism can be a direct result of the trauma and challenges we faced in our childhood. Growing up in an emotionally immature, unpredictable, or abusive environment can lead us to develop perfectionism as a way to feel safe, gain the love and validation we craved, and ensure our survival within the dysfunctional systems we were a part of.

Perfectionism as a protection mechanism

Perfectionism is a defense mechanism, a way to protect ourselves from the intense emotions and trauma we experienced as children. By striving for perfection, we can avoid feeling the grief, sadness, anger, and shame that are buried deep within us. This suppression of emotions, however, ultimately holds us back from true healing and growth.

Overcoming Perfectionism
Parts Work Exercise (24-60 min)

This exercise is a parts work exercise that helps you to make contact with the perfectionist inside of you, to communicate with it, understand it, and to go to the root cause of your perfectionism. It helps you to feel and heal the suppressed emotions and fear behind your perfectionism, and to discover the need behind it so that you can meet that need and overcome your perfectionism.

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The trigger for Perfectionism: Disconnection

The fear of disconnection, rejection, and abandonment is a key trigger for perfectionism. When we experience criticism, feedback, or the realization that we have made a mistake, it can activate our deepest wounds and fears, leading to a dysregulation of our nervous system and a renewed drive for perfection.

Personal example

I, too, have struggled with perfectionism and can relate to the neurotic thought patterns and intense fear that arise when something is not done perfectly. The idea of being perceived as a “bad” or “unworthy” person can be deeply ingrained and trigger a fear of disconnection, which in turn triggers childhood traum around disconnection.

However, through self-awareness, emotional inquiry, and somatic practices, I have learned to regulate my nervous system and slowly integrate the shame and fear that underlie my perfectionism.

How to heal from Perfectionism

Healing from perfectionism requires a multifaceted approach. It involves:

  • Identifying and addressing the shame, fear of failure, and self-worth issues that underlie your perfectionism;
  • Engaging in emotional inquiry and somatic practices to process the suppressed emotions and trauma from your childhood;
  • Developing self-compassion and the ability to soothe and regulate your nervous system when perfectionism is triggered;
  • Embracing mistakes and failures as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than as threats to your worth;
  • Gradually letting go of the need for perfection and allowing yourself to be authentically imperfect.

Conclusion

Perfectionism is a survival mechanism, a way for our psyche to protect us from the pain and vulnerability of our past. By acknowledging and listening to the parts of ourselves that crave perfection, we can begin to understand the deeper needs and fears that drive this behavior. This self-compassionate approach is essential for healing and overcoming perfectionism.

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