The perfectionism monster
The perfectionism monster
It is easy to say that perfection is impossible in this world, but many women nonetheless laughingly refer to themselves as a ‘perfectionist’ and shrug their shoulders as if to say ‘it’s just the way I am’ – and therefore nothing can be done about it. There is a sense of ownership as if it was something set in stone. But what does perfectionism really cost us, at both an individual level and as a society?
We all love it when things go well. It feels like a real achievement; something we can be proud of, whether that be at work, in the home, on the sporting field or in a relationship of some description. But what then? What is left after we have aimed for perfection and come close to or nailed it exactly as we had hoped we would? There is the moment of feeling successful, smart and in control because we have reached some type of pinnacle. Even if it was not at the forefront of our mind, the outcome is even greater and more satisfying if others notice. Sometimes there is envy, comparison and jealousy that come back at us which we clock at one level and perhaps even feel a little smug about. Or we dismiss or try to suppress it because it feels too confronting to acknowledge what is coming through another person, especially when it is directed at us by someone we deeply care about.
Most women would agree that they feel like perfectionism is a hard task master, but apart from getting counselling and perhaps some medication to help cope with life when diagnosed with something like obsessive compulsive disorder, few realise the full cost of perfectionism. In fact, many tend to view it in a positive fashion because when they get it ‘right’ the rewards feel great. The problem is that the moments of elation and recognition are short-lived and then it is back onto the perfection treadmill – again.
That is the thing with perfectionism – it is never satisfied, and it doesn’t take long before the same old energy hits again and we start to feel like we need to improve on what we have just done or said. What we previously may have deemed as great –in come the thoughts that we need to tweak the result and make it even better, fix that one little bit that we feel wasn’t as good as the rest of whatever it was that was done. Even when someone offers genuine praise we find it hard to fully accept, because we are still fixated on the bit that we feel can be improved upon.
Even when there has been an outright failure with what we were hoping to achieve, the perfectionistic part is busy working out the tactics so as to rectify the so-called errors, or it feeds us the message to withdraw due to feeling completely devastated that things did not work out as planned. When we sign ourselves up to the ‘perfectionist club’ we also accept the free membership offer to automatically take on the blame when things appear to go wrong. The way we beat ourselves up can be extremely vicious, whether that be through physical means and or through our thoughts where we call ourselves every vile name under the sun.
Yet, we are convinced that all this effort to be the idealised version of ourselves will surely pay off. Struggle and complication become part of our daily lives. There is always a feeling that we are trying to reach a destination and then we will be able to rest and enjoy the ‘fruits of our labours’, whether that be status, money, power, fame, getting the recognition we have longed for from family, friends and colleagues – or even being left alone with our comforts and allowed to check out and not have any responsibilities. Regardless of the individual context, we reason we will have ‘made it’ and our life will be sweet – and that is incentive enough to keep pushing for results.
But, all this striving for perfection comes at a high cost that is rarely fully acknowledged. We pour ourselves into our various roles, such as woman, mother, partner, daughter, friend and employer or employee, feeling like we are never quite good enough and that we need to try and not only do more, but do it better and then we will feel like we have hit the mark as a true woman. It often comes with the energy of feeling that we should be self-sacrificing, otherwise we are not a good person. Everything becomes laced with competition, comparison and jealousy. When we are focused on our flaws, we are always calculating and measuring ourselves against others. Are we ahead or behind them? If we are ahead, we feel we can breathe a sigh of relief, but if it goes the other way, we immediately take on the burden of not being good enough or that we are a bad person. Everything is calibrated along a continuum of good vs bad or right vs wrong without a second thought.
Have we ever stopped to consider the cost to our health and wellbeing and the impact on others when we constantly live immersed in this way of thinking and behaving?
We see ourselves as the source for everything that happens in our life and so always come from that mindset. But women are actually under a group force energy that sets the parameters of what it means to be a woman in today’s society. It may vary slightly from location to location, but nonetheless, the message is the same: you need to look, speak, move and think according to the dictates of the various political, cultural, religious, medical, legal and social systems of this world. The media, especially the digital platforms, further emphasise what is acceptable and what is not. Thus, the ‘rules’ are both explicitly and implicitly shared and enforced through all levels of society, with both men and women quick to judge women who do not conform to the norms. Yet, we go along thinking that we, as an individual, can control the bulk of our lives and so we keep aiming for personal perfection.
Women everywhere are talking about feeling exhausted by the demands of daily life and when we load ourselves up with the added pressure of trying to be perfect, it is little wonder that we are also seeing a rise in mental ill health, drug and alcohol abuse, relationship breakdowns and general illness and disease. This is not to say that these problems are solely due to perfectionism, but when we live in a constant state of nervous energy, driven by our quest for perfection, it causes wear and tear on the body and drains us mentally via all the chatter that goes on in our heads.
Our bodies are amazing and work exceedingly hard to keep us functioning; however, they have their limit and if we are not prepared to heed the body’s messages sent to us along the way, we will eventually be pulled up via illness and disease. But do we need to wait for things to reach that point before we start to question this current model of life and what it truly means to be a woman?
"Don't try and better yourself, for such a drive will always come from a point of not being good enough and or from the comparison with another. It is far wiser to constantly develop your awareness to what is truly going on – this will eventually bring you to the Divine you already are."Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 503
If we are prepared to do an honest appraisal of our lives, we will find that the dots do all join and each thing that has happened over the years has impacted on the next thing we have done, and continued to do unless we have changed our behaviour somewhere along the line. As one cycle has ended, a new one has begun, yet all these cycles have been part of a larger cycle we call ‘our life’ and furthermore this life cycle forms part of life cycles we have brought with us from our previous lives. Thus, we carry a vast storehouse of love, wisdom and intelligence inside of us that can be accessed via our Soul, which most are not even aware of.
The majority of people would acknowledge that they have a Soul, albeit perhaps in a shallow way, but stop short of applying that information to their lives in a meaningful way. The truth is that we all have a Soul which is part of the One Soul, but we are not supported to connect with and maximise all that Soul offers. Love, truth, joy, harmony and stillness are all qualities of the Soul –there to enrich our lives if we are willing to open up and accept the offering. Not only that, our Soul also carries the impress of the cycles of our past lives and therefore knows far more about us than our human mind can ever conjure up and use to define who and what we are. In fact, the human mind is wonderful, but quite limited compared to multidimensional intelligence. Does this not blow apart any notion that we are broken failures that require fixing, and any need to be perfect according to society’s depiction of us as women?
We can connect to our Soul through our body, but we do need to take a few steps to learn to be settled enough to sense what our Soul is communicating to us. Self-care is a practical starting point because it is unrealistic to expect that we can becomes truly self-loving when we have spent eons constantly criticising and condemning ourselves. The obvious starters are reviewing and attending to the quality of our diet, exercise and sleep, but it can also include other daily activities such as holding the stair rail for balance when going up and down stairs, making sure we apply sun screen when spending time outside or taking the time to adjust the car seat before driving.
All these sorts of things may seem trivial, but they add up and help to build consistency. The more care we take of ourselves, the easier it is to appreciate what there is to love about ourselves, such as the delicacy of our hands and fingertips when we rub moisturiser on our face, or the grace and regalness we can feel in the sway of our hips as we walk. It feels natural to nurture ourselves because for the first time in our lives perhaps, we feel like we are worth it. Yes, there will be off moments, but the greater the love the easier it is to move on without the self-flagellation when these instances occur. We start to realise that there is more power and strength in our fragility than in the hardness of seeking perfection and control.
As our sensitivity builds, we start to observe the world through fresh eyes, rather than absorbing all the demands and then be left feeling inadequate when we are not able to meet the expectations of others. As the settlement builds, we become more aware of what some call their core or essence, i.e., their Soul, and as our relationship with our Soul grows, so too does our confidence and ability to use it as a powerful resource. When we realise that we have access to whole body-mindedness, which is the mind, body and Soul all working in unison, we are rich beyond anything this temporal world can offer us.
Living Soulfully is not new; we have lived that way in past lives so it is familiar to us, although our minds may want to argue that point. But that is only because there is a part of us that does not want to relinquish the control it has had over us. Are we ready to step up, take responsibility and take command of what energy is running us? Or do we prefer to stay stuck on the ‘perfectionist’ wheel and keep travelling the same well-worn path we have become used to? Some will be ready and others not, but our Soul does not judge or demand – it simply loves us as the imperfectly perfect Sacred woman that we each unquestionably are. Can we handle that level of grandness? One thing is for sure, the world certainly needs it!
"You, as you are, are a perfection designed to help you know who you truly are. Hence, your perfection, even in its perceived imperfection, belongs to you and it comes from Heaven. Do not wish what others have but see that what you have are blessings that help bring you back to who you truly are."Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume II, ed 1, p 447