Have you ever found yourself exhausted by the actions, behaviors or comments from other people? Do you find yourself asking why people can't seem to get it? If you're being 100% honest, would you say that you can be a bit judgemental? Do you have a strict, cruel or otherwise harsh inner critic? Do you also battles feelings of resentment, or find yourself comparing your performance or status to other people in life or on social media? Do you fight the urge to fix people and situations? Is perfect the only acceptable outcome for you in most situations? Does all of this result in undesirable outcomes, that cause you to double down your efforts to get closer to just right, or perfect?
If so, you may be a type 1 Enneagram, or possibly a type 6, depending on the level of attachment you have to predictable, and perfect outcomes. If you don't know, and would like to know, you can get an Enneagram test with me, complete with an interpretation of your pattern and what's keeping you stuck. You can also go to Truity.com and pay them for an inpersonal reading. You can also read "The Wisdom of The Enneagram" by Riso-Hudson for more on the Enneagram personality typing system.
For both of these types, doing the right thing (type 1), or doing what is expected of them (type 6 as an authority figure) are their core motivations respectively. This means that no matter what the situation calls for, the main goal of these 2 types is to be seen as good, worthy of praise, support, or acceptance. It usually gets projected into a sense of urgency in completing a project or task in a specific way, by specific people to achieve a specific, and narrow result. While these are virtuous traits when used contextually, when over expressed, it creates anxiety, and a desire for control. This is due to the obvious fact that the world is not perfect, predictable, and we cannot set rigid expectations in everything we do, and expect to feel content, and happy.
Perfectionism is a common trait found in individuals striving for excellence in various aspects of life. While it can be seen as a positive quality, constantly pursuing perfection can become an energy drain that hinders personal growth and fulfillment. This is due to the anxiety and frustration we feel, or resist feeling when things don't go our way.
The key here lies in the word resistance. You see, when our core motivations are threatened, we subconsciously create energy that we then label as fear, or anger. Since our core motivation is to avoid feeling a certain way, we spend energy resisting the energy, because we've labeled the energy as fear or anger. This manifests in imposter behavior, and other insecure approaches. It's like a bird in the wild that puffs up to look scary when a predator is near. In the case of a perfectionist, the fear or anger is surrounded around a threat to them being accepted by the tribe, and facing annihilation or alienation. They have an unconscious belief that doing the wrong thing, being bad, unjust, or not doing what's expected of them will lead to the annihilation or alienation they fear.
The key lies in resolving past traumas, awareness of the core motivation's triggers, and finding the inner validation and acceptance that we are supplementing with and subjugating others to. In other words, we've delegated our feeling of safety, security and acceptance to the other 8 billion people on the planet. When they don't do the right thing, or what we expect them to do, we might feel personally threatened, and call it annoyed.
In Stephen Wollinsky's book, "The Tao of Chaos," he speaks about our relationship with attention and chaos (problems), which creates an energy cycle that we are not aware of, hence, it becomes a shadow of ours. (Subscribe for future writings on shadows and how they affect us. ). In his book, he describes the 3 relational strategies we have with our attention to chaos. This formula holds true with our attention to conversations, emotions, thoughts, and objects as well. The best way to remember this dynamic is to equate "chaos" to a need to "attend to" it and we create A Tension between us and the chaos. A narrowed focus of TENSION, becomes ATTENTION.
The 3 strategies of attention to chaos/problems:
1. Give attention to the chaos
2. Get attention from the chaos.
3. Transact or get an exchange from the chaos.
To add context, let's paint a hypothetical scenario, and how 3 different personality types, with different core motivations would use their attention strategy to feel safe, accepted, or otherwise validated.
****NOTE: Your personality is not a fixed part of you, nor is it who you truly are. It's your ego's way of interfacing with the world, and it's what creates our shadows and allows or inhibits our highest self from manifesting. More on that to come in future blog posts.
Hypothetical situation: A man is driving 40 mph in a 25 mph speed zone, there is plenty of traffic, so this man is also passing in an unsafe manner.
Giving attention to chaos: Enneagram type 1 or 6 will give attention from the chaos to make sure nothing goes wrong. This could be a call to the police, or a rant post on social media. Core Motivations to be seen as good, fair, loyal, acceptable.
Get attention from the chaos: A type 3 would look to get attention from the chaos, possibly by following the person on a live TikTok feed to their 10,000 followers, and let everyone know what they are doing about it. Core Motivations: To be seen as a doer, something special, adored.
Transact or get an exchange from the chaos: A type 2 would look to exchange with the chaos by following the driver to their next stop, paying for their Starbucks, and asking them what's got them so stressed out. Core Motivations: To be seen as worthy, loving, and selfless
These are all ways of avoiding feeling. Why do we avoid feeling? Because we label them and find meaning that inevitably points back to our false core motivations mentioned above. It creates an energetic loop with the chaos/A-Tension, which we feed over and over again. This becomes our pattern, and our compensations become lifestyle, and the inner and outer state we create is labeled as "me", "I", "just the way I am"
For a perfectionist, it's critical to realize that your morals and values are not shared by all, and people learn right from wrong in their own way. Each person's journey is just as relevant as your's is, as well as their perspective. People are capable of doing what's right without your intervention or worry. Nothing is truly perfect or permanent, and the chaos always settles itself. Never does it need your help, organization, or sense of what's right. You can only control so much, and even then, you're not as in control as you think. Gratitude goes a long ways, and you're not ever going to be happy if you need the whole world to change for that to happen.
Perfectionism: The Elusive Quest for Flawlessness: "I'll show up when I have attained complete balance and integrity, make no mistakes, and have everything in my world sensibly organized. When I have achieved perfection, then I'll show up."
Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you integrate your perfectionistic traits into your healthy mental and physical state.
Self-Criticism: Perfectionists tend to be overly critical of themselves, constantly focusing on their flaws and mistakes. This self-criticism drains valuable energy that could be channeled into more productive and fulfilling pursuits. Whoever's voice you hear as a harsh inner critic, realize it's not your's, it's not accurate or holistic in context. Whoever's voice it is, was just a person who was also avoiding something and your actions posed a perceived threat to them, projected onto you. Form a relationship with the inner critic by asking it what else is true, or what would someone who loves me say about it?
Fear of Failure: Perfectionists often fear failure and avoid taking risks, limiting their potential growth and exploration of new opportunities. The constant need for certainty and avoiding mistakes becomes exhausting and stifles creativity. Instead of seeing chaos/problems as a risk, see them as an opportunity to gain more information and experience. As you feel the fear and your resistance to it creep up, avoid the need to fix something. Instead, set a timer for 5 minutes and allow the fear to be in you. Notice how you've labeled this energy as fear, and let it do it's thing for 5 minutes without your intervention. Notice how the energy needs no help to go away. Also notice how you were in no real danger, and your inner critic was wrong. Never pass up an opportunity to make a "mistake", as they are the best lessons in life.
Unrealistic Expectations: Setting impossibly high standards for oneself and others is a recipe for disappointment. Perfectionists may struggle with feelings of inadequacy and chronic stress as they constantly strive for unattainable ideals. If there is a deep seated belief that you're not worthy, or good enough to perform a task, you will likely choose a task that is a low likelihood of being successful. None of us like to be wrong, and what we expect has everything to do with what we accept. If we expect to be uncomfortable and wish to avoid certain thoughts and emotions that come up, guess what responses we will accept?! Guess which responses we will not entertain as a possible option?! Allowing.......the......feeling....to.....just.....BE........................................ENERGY.....THAT....GOES...AWAY....WITHOUT.....MY......HELP. Name it: what label did i place on it. Blame it: what has my avoidance cost me, and what is this really? Tame it: "Let it be, and it will let you be." Stephen Wollinsky.
Embracing Imperfection for Personal Growth
Cultivate Self-Awareness: Recognize that nobody is perfect, and it's essential to be kind to yourself. Watch out for your tendency to see all that's wrong in life. There will always be something to want and there will always be something imperfect about anything. It's whack a mole. Embrace mistakes and failures as valuable learning opportunities rather than sources of shame. Practice daily self-awareness surrounding triggering events in your life, and be very grateful for all you have. This approach energizes a person instead of draining it.
Set Realistic Goals: Rather than striving for perfection in every endeavor, set realistic and achievable goals. Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps, allowing for progress and a sense of accomplishment along the way. See this process as a curiosity based science experiment. Instead of saying "we must get this result, or we have to ......" say to yourself, if I want to accomplish x,y.z, and so far, a,b,c hasn't worked.... "I wonder if..., I think that if I......what happens if...., what if I did this instead?" We're forming a question, a hypothesis, and manipulating the input to record the data of output. Curiously. No judgement. No expectations beyond expecting some sort of data to track.
Embrace Flexibility: Embracing imperfection requires flexibility and adaptability. Allow room for spontaneity, experimentation, and unforeseen outcomes. Accept that chaos and mistakes are inevitable and view them as opportunities for growth and creativity. Trust that you have a powerful heart and intuition, your brain doesn't need to do everything.
Prioritize Self-Care: Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being is crucial in combating the energy drain caused by perfectionism. Engage in activities that bring you joy, don't wait until all conditions are perfect. Know that the validation you seek is a supplement for what you're not giving yourself. None of us are the arbiters of perfection, we haven't been anointed with that, so let go of the burden, relax, and love yourself.
Conclusion Perfectionism can be an energy drain that prevents personal growth and fulfillment. It keeps us stuck in a holding pattern that can actually manifest physical symptoms like constipation, IBS, and other auto immune conditions. Realizing your strategy to avoid feeling, thinking, or just being is in relation to your chaos strategy is the first big step in awareness. Resistance creates pain, events do not.
If you need help getting this squared away, so that you can experience freedom again and high level health and energy....I got you!
Peace, Much Love, Live Well!