Perfectionism Is a Trauma Response

Written By Dr. Nima

On March 26, 2023
What is it that you’re not stepping into action for?
Where are you dragging your feet?
What is sitting there unwritten, unresolved, un-expressed within you?
Chances are,
you’re stopped by “perfection anxiety”— better known as PERFECTIONISM.
If you’ve ever identified yourself as a “perfectionist,”— pay close attention.
What was the consequence to you as a child of “not getting it right?”
I can recall a specific traumatic example of my dad trying to help me with my math homework
when I was 10 years old.
I just couldn’t get the answer right.
I GENUINELY couldn’t solve it.
I noticed how upset that made him… almost as if he took it personally.
I felt stupid.
That memory was held in my body, and every time I would bring back home grades that weren’t satisfactory,
I would be met with the same sense of shame and unlovability.
It’s taken some deep inner work to realize that he was loving me in the best way he knew how,
and that his high standards of excellence have been quite supportive of my bigger picture,
but with every good comes a bad, and the dark side of this external pressure
is anxiety, which spills into our sense of self worth.
Without getting to the root cause (which isn’t a cognitive process— it’s in the body)
we won't ask for what we feel we deserve (because we don’t feel we deserve much)
we don’t step outside our comfort zone,
we stay stuck in the same levels in our work, in our relationships….
All due to the fear of feeling those horrible feelings from those unresolved events—
that “failure” and “not good enough” energy we are trying to avoid…
but are very much alive within us.
When Eliezer first hopped on a call with me to discuss the impact of his perfectionism in his life,
he felt stuck because he didn’t challenge himself to take any of his Scripture tests in his Synagogue.
His faith and spiritual growth was important to him, but for 20 years
his perfection anxiety prevented him from taking the necessary tests to advance him.
Our work was focussed on integrating his shadows of “not enough” and surrendering to the failure
and disappointment his younger self experienced.
Within weeks, he did what he wasn’t able to do in 20 years—
and has since advanced to greater heights in his life,
not by being perfect,
but by walking side by side with the parts of himself that felt like a failure,
giving them all the love they never felt.
Sounds pretty crazy and “woo” at times,
but consider the possibility that we are all children in adult bodies,
waiting for someone to give the love we didn’t receive growing up.
Consider the possibility that no one is coming to rescue us from perfection anxiety.
Consider the possibility that that person can be no one else but you.
Your guide on the side,

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