Calming Your Inner Perfectionist With Love

This post might seem a little out there and you just might think I’m a little cuckoo after reading it.  I’m working on being OK with that.

The realization I had a couple of weeks ago, that I am a secret perfectionist, has been gnawing at me.  Haunting me.  It is both glorious to have a reason for some of my feelings and struggles and daunting to work toward making my inner self more aligned with who I want to be.


I have become really aware of some places that my perfectionist habits tend to show up.  Last week our family was on a 7 day road trip and I found myself taking responsibility for whether or not my husband and children were having fun.  Like seriously, I planned out 7 days of amazing adventures, if nobody was having fun it really was their issue.  Plus it turned out that the only one not having fun was me, because I was stressed about whether or not everybody else was having fun.

Did I do a good job?

Do you like me?

Approve of me!

Work to be done here folks.  Hard work.  In the arena getting my ass kicked, work, as  Brené Brown calls it.  Apparently this makes it worth it.

I have something to share with you that I have been using to combat perfectionist Sarah.

There is a meditation podcast called Live Awake by Sarah Blondin.

I have slightly altered the advice from two episodes to fit into my tool box.

Fear Unmasked is the story of a girl who fights against her fear and anxiety, but remains defeated.  Then one day she asks the fear why it is there and what it wants her to know.

I used these questions to address my perfectionism.  I wrote it a little note in my journal in fact:

Dear Perfectionism,

What do you want me to know?

Then I sat and waited, pen in hand, until the reply came.

There is a much greater love available to you if you give me up.  Things will open up so much wider for you when you put down what other people think about you.  Things generally turn out in the end.  You don’t have to spend so much time and energy trying to micromanage the details.  Leaving me behind is the key to the richer, deeper, braver life that you want.  

Wow right!  So good!

Of course I don’t think that perfectionism is actually speaking to me, but this reply was the wisdom already in me that I had not been tapping into.  It’s beautiful to realize that it’s there inside, I just need to access it.

Our Warring Self vs Our Infinite Self (releasing-anger) starts out pretty much describing every tantrum I’ve ever had, in a richly poetic way.  Then surprisingly the message is not to rebel against this warring self, but to be kind to her.  Lovingly put her away.  Because if we fight against this warring woman it only adds fuel to the battle.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote “Peace will only be found when you can love all the parts of yourself that you have always hated.”

“I love the part of you who is ashamed of yourself right now.”

or: “I love the part of you who can’t stop judging yourself right now.”

or: “I love the part of you who feels weak and helpless right now.”

I am trying to  talk lovingly to the warring part of me.  Because she is not only fierce, she is afraid.  She is the child who feels she just doesn’t ever seem to get things right.  She has wounds.  She roars and she cowers.

It’s slowly, slowly, painfully slowly starting to sink in that I can not love the world well if I don’t love myself first.

Self-compassion is a practice.  Through practice we make progress and that is what we can hope for.  Steps along the path that leads us to better recognizing when the warring woman has been triggered and how to help her be calm and make way for our loving self to take her place when we interact with struggle and suffering.

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  • Twyla says:

    Oh my goodness. Sarah, not many people successfully blow my brain circuits like you have in this piece.
    **Then one day she asks the fear why it is there and what it wants her to know.**

  • Corrina Knoll says:

    Seriously! You have no idea how much I needed to read this RIGHT NOW! This is a struggle I have always had and this week, for some reason, everything came to a head! “Leaving me behind is the key….” That is going up at the kitchen sink where I can see it everyday! There has got to be more to this life, more fun, more living! Thanks so much for writing from your heart, there is so much wisdom there!

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