Updated: Oct 13, 2020
(Simple... but not always easy)
"This is shit”.
I know, it’s brash, but the perfectionist voice in my head doesn’t filter. When it takes over it’s incessant, unrealistic, & usually cruel. Nothing is good enough for the perfectionist & it’s expectations constantly linger beyond reach, goading me to be better, do better, know better.
Perfectionism can be daunting & defeating. Even when we fulfill our goal - have that tough conversation, sing that song, write that play - it arrives not to congratulate us but to snuff off our accomplishments with the thought “Yea, so what - you still haven’t _______”
Some people see perfectionism as a threat to push aside while others have brought it into the narrative of who they are “Yea, well I’m a perfectionist.” In it's own strange way perfectionism can even be addictive - a seemingly necessary force that ensures we keep pushing ourself to do better. In one moment it cuts us down & in another offers us a fleeting sense of superiority as it judges another to be 'less then'.
Unfortunately, the pain of perfectionism is very real. When taken at face value it’s harsh assessments can be debilitating. It prevents us from trying new things, speaking up, or following our very personal & valid interests. When we repress this voice or deny its existence it may lurk beneath the surface instigating our insecurities while never revealing the truth that waits beneath.
The ‘Perfectionist’ voice isn't an enemy. It’s a strategy we've developed to ensure that we are valued, accepted, & safe. When we can draw this voice & listen we may discover a gateway to greater self knowing, self love, humility, & growth.
1. What Motivates Your ‘Perfectionist’ Voice?
When perfectionism is upon us - its voice ringing judgement in our ears - it helps to pause & ask ourselves “What is this voice trying to achieve?”
By understanding the motives of behind the perfectionist voice we step closer to discovering its true nature - the one that lurks behind this strategy. This is an excavation. Dig into each answer that arises & see if leads you deeper. Is there more to this? Why does this matter?
Some common motives of the ‘Perfectionist’ are;
~ To achieve
~ To ensure I don’t fail
~ To prove my value, my worth
~ To make sure no one judges me
~ To be recognized as the best
~ To overcome a stigma or external judgement
~ To avoid feeling the shame or embarrassment of being judged
~ To finally make ______ proud
~ To gain validation
2. What is Your ‘Perfectionist’ Afraid of?
As we uncover the motives of our perfectionist voice we often encounter uncomfortable sensations & emotions. These indicate a deeper motivation - something more personal that we are afraid of or resisting. In understanding these fears we begin to unveil the part of ourself that has been protected/hidden by the perfectionist voice. Like motivation this is a process of gentle excavation & curiosity.
Some common fears of the ‘Perfectionist’ include;
~ Afraid to be shunned or judged.
~ Afraid that _______ will never acknowledge me.
~ Afraid that I’ll be a failure.
~ Afraid that if I’m not great at this I don’t have value.
~ Afraid of unworthiness.
As you complete this list pause & take a several deep breaths. Orient yourself to your space, look at what’s around you, & feel your sensations. Allow any strong emotions that arise & stay anchored in your breath. This is a moment to honour yourself & to appreciate that part of you that is genuinely afraid. Meet this part of you like a friend, bearing witness to it’s expression while remain present, attentive, & patient.
3. What does the ‘Perfectionist’ (or likely inner child) Need or Desire?
I want to pause here to bring to light a common response that I hear. Something like “She just needs to trust herself” or “She needs to accept herself.”
Imagine for a moment that you are a little kid being told “You need to accept yourself.” How does that land? Really? What I’ve found is that it often creates more tension - because the desire to be accepted is discounted & instead met with the idea that you ‘should’ be there already. Its kind fo a sneaky perfectionist voice in itself.
With that in mind as yourself what does this part you - the part that is afraid really desire?
Examples might include;
~ To be accepted.
~ To have space to grow & learn.
~ To be appreciated & loved for who & what they are.
~ To be respected .
Write these down & notice how each one lands in your body. Does it feel true? Take your time, if new to this type of exercise it can be quite encompassing.
4. Meet the True Needs of the Perfectionist Voice
Imagine yourself there with this ‘Perfectionist’ part of you. Hold a wide state of presence & offer them that which they deeply desire. You may do this as a felt sense or speak to them in a tender clear voice.
Some things you might say include;
~ I accept you as you are.
~ Take as long as you need to feel safe - I’m not leaving you.
~ I appreciate who you are in every way.
~ I am here to listen.
~ I am willing to listen.
~ I am willing to learn & work with you.
Take your time. Feel the words land. Stand in the voice of the mature brilliant individuals you are while also listening from the vulnerable part of you that has been afraid. With patience & zero attachment you might even ask this part of you if they have anything they want you to know or how they would like to be supported.
The insights found her are deeply person & a long way from the incessant harshness of perfectionism.
A Foundation for Compassionate Communication.
The voices inside us all come from some past experience or learned behaviour. As we come to know them & seek to understand them we find a path to healing ourselves & more effectively expressing our truth.
To meet the perfectionist voice & uncover it’s message we deepen our sense of self, our vulnerability, & self acceptance. This is revolutionary for our voice as it creates greater internal freedom to explore & express those things that are more tender or true. When we appreciate our perfectionist & hear that which is beneath it’s often brash tone we shift the focus. Moving from trying to be who we think we ‘should’ be based on outside approval into who we desire to be in our own truth. This allows us to express and share in a more humble, authentic, & empathetic voice.
About the Author Amy Thiessen is a coach, writer, & musician who focuses on helping others find & express a their voice with resonance. Her unique approach works with the wholistic mechanism of voice utilizing somatic awareness, psychology, mindfulness, spiritual practice, & vocal techniques of toning & song.
Want help to overcome & understand your perfectionist tendencies? Book a free consultation to see if In Resonance Coaching is right for you.