Unhealthy Perfectionism can be a form of self-abandonment and self-neglect.
When we get lost in the work as a way to numb ourselves, distract ourselves, or avoid emotional/relational areas of our lives that need tending to - we are being seduced by unhealthy perfectionism.
As high-performers, we can find comfort in knowing we are productive, successful and amazing at the work we do. But when it becomes a way to escape our own emotional world, perfectionism can be a sign of deep shame. When it begins to affect our performance because we are in internal agony over the quality of the work - whether it is good enough, and when we feel the work is a reflection of who we are at our core (therefore if it is good we are good, and if it is bad we are bad) this is when we begin playing with fire.
I’m not here to hate on perfectionism - I think it can be good/healthy in certain areas. You know, we want a surgeon to be perfectionist, we want artists to some degree to be “healthy” perfectionists… but it’s a VERY fine line.
We have glorified the tortured high-achiever too. The hard work and toil. The sweat and labour of the ONE who is SO GOOD AT THAT THING…
When you sacrifice your sanity and emotional health for the perceived quality of your work - you are playing with fire.
When you procrastinate from a state of frozen, primal, survival fear because you’re terrified the work just won’t hold up, because it has to be perfect…? That’s a sign of something deeper. *trauma*
When your self-worth is wrapped up in the work, you delegate your worthiness to some exterior power. The critics who may or may not like it. Your boss who may or may not approve.
And so you live your life dangling on that string. That tight, tight rope. What’s behind the curtain today? Will they love me, or hate me?Will the work be good enough - will I make a mistake? When they love me I’ll be okay to love myself, when they hate me, I’ll hate myself.
OF COURSE - we don’t want our work to be torn apart and judged and hated - OF COURSE we want our work to be loved. OF COURSE we want to pass the test. OF COURSE we want the promotion. OF COURSE we want our businesses to succeed. I’m not advocating for the contrary.
But - what if both are neutral? What if making the result of failure/success… of a pass or a fail… of a “it’s not quite what I was looking for” from the boss just be neutral? Neither good… or bad…
Completely and utterly neutral.
What if you could live and work from a balanced place within that could not be swayed by whether or not your work is loved or hated. You’d be free to fail.
You’d be free to create the great work of your life (which definitely requires lots of failure). You’d be free to be both loved and hated, because at the end of the day - you’d know you were doing the work that mattered, that came from the heart.
But of course… to get to that place… for the work to be neutral. you’d have to look at a few things going on within. You’d have to look at when you first realized you could soothe the pain of an unloving unsafe home with the approval of an A+. You’d have to look at what failure meant in your childhood home. You’d have to look at where your worth comes from now. You’d have to be with the sensations and emotions of abandonment and terror and fear that come up when you think about executing that project… that big dream… leading that team… recording that album… doing whatever great work you know you’re meant for.
But… if you were able to allow the results of your work to be neutral… You’d know that you poured yourself into that work and you created something. And maybe it will be liked and maybe not. And maybe (for sure) you’ll make ten thousand mistakes along the way… Maybe it will be misunderstood or hated at first… But is that the point of the work? for it to be loved, and adored? Or, is the point the work itself? Chiselling along creating chaos out of order from a vision within…
Because if the results of the work became neutral, you’d be free to create your heart’s work from that place.
As someone who LOVES work and creating. Who loves to pour myself into the work…. Who loves the thrill of success... I don’t think that the point is for it to be loved. I think that agonizing over the perfection of the work - over whether it will be liked or loved gnaws away at the purity of the work we’re called to do in the world - whatever that is for you.
I think that the work itself is the point. And if you follow that stream down the line, courageously, passionately, even with the fear of being misunderstood, judged, doing it wrong… if you follow that internal nudge and knowing… that RESONANCE will lead you to something much more satisfactory and powerful than external approval.
And that path itself is a healing modality - no? Because doesn’t it require you to shed everything that isn’t aligned along the way… doesn’t it sort of purify you?
High performers who grow up in dysfunctional families learn to be perfectionists because they recognize that they can receive approval from the outside world - that they can be seen in the world outside of a family that doesn’t feel safe or loving.
And it comes from the most innocent place of just wanting some tender love. But if we don’t heal that wounding - that innocent little tender, neglected part of us will run the show. The fear of being rejected or abandoned again starts to bleed into the work we do…. The desperation to be seen in our sincerity starts to bleed into the way we perform. And the higher you rise, the more that little tender part of you may sabotage your work from a place of unhealed fear.
The answer isn’t (I don’t think) to STOP performing… STOP achieving… I think it’s to look at where it’s all coming from. And to look at whether the work you’re doing is what you truly desire to be doing… And in the process of doing that… and healing those wounds… the work itself becomes more pure and powerful. And you don’t have the same terrifying attachment to it. You become the vessel instead…
Continue Forward in Healing,
PS... I can help you find a way to work & create from a place of passion and joy rather than fear and survival. if you'd like to book a 1-1 consultation with me, click here: https://www.shylacash.com/workwithme