The Arenas of Perfectionism

The Arenas of Perfectionism

Often perfectionism is spoken of as a lump-sum kind of thing. I’ve been exploring it a bit lately and, so far, found that there are 4 areas where perfectionism really consolidates and shows up for people:

1) Physical: this involves appearance, dress, body type, athleticism, hair, etc

2) Emotional: we are feeling the “right” feelings, not feeling the “wrong” feelings, expressing them “the right way”, or not expressing them at all

3) Behavioral: we are acting in the “right way”, doing the “right things”, and avoiding the “wrong things”.

4) Performance: we’re supposed to “get something” fast.  We should be at a specific place in our healing, our lives, our finances, etc.

Most often for survivors of abuse, all these of these areas are controlled heavily. The one that peaks my interest lately is #2: Emotional Perfectionism.

Emotional Perfectionism tells us that there are “good” feelings and there are “bad” feelings.

“Good” feelings are feelings that:

– do not rock the boat
– delight others
– avoid conflict
– require nothing of others (are not burdensome)

“Bad” feelings are emotions that:

– rock the boat
– require attention
– are uncomfortable to self and/or others
– create conflict

Sound familiar?

Emotional perfectionism is deadly as it cuts us off from our genuine feelings and programs us to create “false emotions”.

False emotions are feelings we try to feel in place of our genuine emotions. We fake these feelings. We can even go as far as convincing ourselves that we actually feel it because we create a fantasy around it.

Genuine emotions are the gateway to understanding our subconscious self. When we observe and hear them (rather than react or treat them as fact), we can learn about what we want and need. We find ourselves more resolved in our boundaries and clearer in our sense of self.

How do we start tuning into our genuine emotions?

Understand, Accept, and Allow (FLOW) all that you feel without applying a story to them. “I feel tension”. “I feel sadness”. State the facts and then practice being the observer of the sensations and listening. No judgment. No fixing. No stories.

Take time each day to listen and observe the sensations in your body. Use a daily meditation to help train your mind to focus and observe.

From there, you can build your mastery through more advanced tools, such as Holding Space, Following, Leaning Into, and even the Closure Technique.


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