What if Perfectionism is Anti-social Toward Our Humanity?


There are many messages that we receive in this world about performance, productivity, and perfectionism. Yet, most of all- perfectionism. From an early age, most individuals are conditioned to function “so well” as to outrun discomfort; discomfort of potential failures and conflicts, emotional loneliness, social rejection, or disappointment. In attempt to outrun discomfort, one can experience pressure to direct their focus on mastering the act of appearing perfect for their survival and for inclusion. 

Yet, what if perfectionism is actually anti-social toward our humanity? Perfectionism is alluring in it’s many promises to produce us as “successful and likable” human-beings, but it comes at the cost of: true emotional intimacy that’s built on allowing one’s self to to be fully seen by others; a colorful lens of life experiences, where ebbs and flows bring authenticity and depth to the human journey, or allowing space for errors that can prove to be opportunities to grow in self-awareness. It’s our natural right to find ease in our bodies, yet it hardly feels that way when chasing perfectionism. The mask of perfectionism makes it hard to ask for help and to be honest about our needs. 

However, it is possible to be a healthy human-being without hanging on to myths created about how perfectionism equals happiness. Given that perfectionism for decades been disrupting the joy of individuals by means of false guilt, self-comparison to others, impostor syndrome, and discontent with ease not earned. 

If you’re interested in examining what healthy humanity looks like and dismantling the trappings of perfectionism in your own life, below is an exercise worth trying. Before you begin, here’s a quick note. In this current world climate, it can feel easy to imagine a perfect world as one where resources are adequately distributed and there is justice for all. The truth is, our world doesn’t need to be perfect in order for resources to be adequately distributed and for there to truly be justice for all. Our world needs more individuals prompted to action through empathy and intrinsic moral dignity, and not reactive to scarcity (perfectionism) myths and hate.

An exercise worth trying for all Perfectionists:

  1. Take notice to all the QUALITIES about you that make you human. Additionally, how would you describe your essence (that part of you unscathed by trauma or any wounding event). You’ve likely experienced your essence on numerous occasions when your mind seemed unbothered, and you felt either connected or anchored to your body and/or life.
  2. Locate the part of your body where you most EXPERIENCE your essence. Hold on to it as a grounding force, as you allow your mind to drift.
  3. Now IMAGINE, a perfect world, where you, loved ones, any and everyone you encounter are well put together and perfect. Nothing in the world is out of place. [If you start to notice a part of you surfacing to object to this exercise, imagine placing it and its arguments on the sidelines]. 
  4. What’s your initial IMPRESSION of this perfect world?
  5. How do you NAVIGATE a world where you, everything and everyone is perfect and well put together?
  6. How do you experience your EMOTIONS when perfect?
  7. How are CONNECTIONS made in perfection?
  8. How do you DEEPEN relationships when you, the world, and others in it are perfect? Do you even recognize the need of deepening relationships?
  9. In a perfect world, where you and others are perfect, what do you LAUGH about?
  10. How do you experience INSIGHT and GROWTH in a perfect world where you are perfect?
  11. What do you LEARN about yourself in a perfect world where you are also perfect?
  12. In a perfect world where everything is put together, how do you that know you’re truly HAPPY or FULFILLED?
  13. In a perfect world where you are also perfect, what are you MOTIVATED by?  
  14. If religion or spirituality is important to you, in a perfect world how connected are you to its expressions in you and externally?
  15. Take a GENTLE inhale and fully exhale out. Finding the part of your body once more where you experience your essence and letting it bring you back to where you presently are. If by now, you’ve noticed how much the cost of perfectionism is on your humanity, ask yourself “Is worth it?” You might even ask yourself, is there a healthier way to try and meet the needs that you’ve tried indirectly receiving through perfectionism. 

Carmelle Ellison, LCSW

I help high-achieving adults, especially in the BIPOC community live authentically wholesome lives via telehealth therapy throughout California.


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