Perfectionism, emotion and thought work.

Hello Brooke,

I’m a new scholar and I just want to start by saying THANK YOU. This work has been super challenging and I feel like i’m learning a lot.

One area that I’m working on is perfectionism. I’ve noticed that I have a history of perpetuating a lot of perfectionist thinking habits. I’m talking the buffering, avoiding, criticising, there’s no point in trying, there’s no such thing as wrong but you’re doing it wrong, picking holes in everything kind of perfectionism. I know intellectually that this doesn’t serve me but I haven’t quite gotten to working out believing differently yet. Although I might be now.

One conclusion I’ve come to (today actually) is that my thinking habits have been about me trying to avoid feeling embarrassment, shame, diminished, stupid, incapable or vulnerable. Like, if I stay in my little cave and I don’t stretch too far I get to avoid feeling those things. Ironically I think i’ve been doing that by making myself feel incapable, stupid and shameful.

One of the reasons I think i’ve been avoiding doing the real work is because I’ve held the belief that doing the work will require me to go into situations where I’ll have to feel those emotions in a really intense way. I feel like I’ve been trying to trick myself into sticking my hand into the emotional plug socket and trying to convince myself that that’s the cost of success and my brain has responded with ‘are you crazy?! no way!.’

I think one of the major reasons I haven’t moved forward as far as I could have is because I’ve been thinking that I’d have to feel embarrassed and stupid. I’m not sure now if I do?

Part of this may have been because I used to have a pretty serious anxiety disorder, and one of the ways I helped heal that was practicing situations where I felt afraid and learning to think of fear as a sensation and as an essential part of survival. Like fear is a pal that just wants to stop me getting eaten. I can think of plenty of situations where fear is a useful response. I can see how fear has a place in me but so far I’ve not been able to find the same home for shame and embarrassment.

I’ve read so much self help which is all about ‘The way to success is through struggle. No pain no gain. You have to be willing to be vulnerable.’ I’ve associated that basically with being willing to feel like absolute shit and I’ve not really being willing to.

I’m wondering now whether those emotions are a part of the 50% we can’t avoid, or whether doing the thought work means I can live a full life and not have to feel those emotions?

On the flip side, I wonder if I’m pandering to my perfectionist thinking by trying to come up with the perfect thoughts which will mean I don’t have to feel embarrassment, shame or stupid?

I’m basically just having one long ‘WHAAAAAT?’ moment right now.

Any opinions or thoughts on this would be really helpful.

Thanks for reading that jumble.