Perfectionism as a defence

Trying to be perfect, thinking we can only win love or find acceptance if we are perfect is an illusion, one we may have bought into after a childhood where real love, affection and attention was missing.  Today I read a very good reading at my Al Anon meeting about a woman, who like me discovered as she worked the steps and looked to her inner world how she learned to use criticism and endless self judgement as a defence against being found wanting and then being emotionally abandoned.

The truth was the she suffered emotional abandonment in childhood and so sought control through perfectionism.  As I read the reading which I cannot copy here (as I don’t own that book) I could not help but think of myself and my Mum and of our honest conversation yesterday.

Emotional recovery for this person involved learning it was okay to relax and have fun. That she was still acceptable even if she could not control, fix or make things perfect.  Learning to accept her humanity and learning just to let go,  most of all of her own dysfunctional expectations.  It was a powerful reading from me to read today.

In many ways in our culture there is a cult of perfectionism that surrounds us.  We fear that if we don’t measure up we will be eliminated or lose our job (and this is probably coming to be more and more the case in an increasingly driven world) and yet our fundamental value really does not lie in outer factors.  It lies in a sense of strength inside us that rests on an unshakable foundation, that of our core essence and the value we possess as the innocent soul that we are who deserves love despite our imperfections.

This is not to say we need to excuse really shitty behaviour from ourselves or others but it does mean that we look deeper and see what feelings may underlie reactions or behaviour which causes us problems or causes ourselves or other’s pain.  Loving and accepting that we are not perfect leaves us open to make progress, rather than damn ourselves before we even try as a self protection against being emotionally abandoned as we were in the past.  Seeking perfection and criticising ourselves or others over and over means we lack a foundation of acceptance and stay barricaded within defences which only narrow and limit our lives as it simultaneously allows us to let go into the present moment through loosening frenzied attempts to hide or gain control over all those things we mayultimately be powerless over.

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