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S2 EP134 – Healing Perfectionism

Episode Summary

Are you addicted to perfectionism? Do you believe that if you are perfect, you can control how others feel about you? Are you aware that trying to control what you can’t control makes you feel anxious and unhappy? Discover the 3 big false beliefs that lead to the burden of perfectionism, and the truth that heals these beliefs.


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding podcast. Today I’m speaking to the issue of perfectionism and to healing perfectionism.

I always love to get Dr. Erika Chopich’s take on a topic, so I asked her to speak to this issue. As the co-creator of Inner Bonding, Erika always has a unique and powerful way of speaking about a topic. Here is what she has to say about perfectionism.  

“Many people think that being perfect is the antidote to being abandoned, being left alone – from the false belief that if you’re just perfect enough no one would ever want to leave you. Perfectionism comes from the wounded self. It’s a self-judgmental chain around your neck. When you believe you need to be perfect to be safe and loved, it’s in everything. It’s in how you dress, how you eat, what you eat, how you walk, how you talk. It’s in everything you do. It is all consuming. It is a cancer to the soul, and people I’ve known who are addicted to perfectionism, it’s so sad because you can’t find the real person underneath that to connect to. It’s superficial noise all the time. Everything has to be perfect – not just the outward appearance has to be perfect, but how they speak the ideas they have. It’s inauthentic and it depletes the soul.

“The perfectionist people don’t have access to their higher guidance, and because of that they don’t take risks. Without risk, you can’t ever move forward, you cannot soar, you can’t try new dreams, you can’t take a new path. You’re imprisoned by the perfectionism in every way imaginable. It’s very sad to me that perfectionists believe that if you’re perfect enough, not only will you have safety because no one will leave you, but no one could ever blame you, no one could ever confront you, no one can criticize you if you’re perfect. The wounded self believes it’s the ultimate protection.

“Perfectionism is manipulative and very annoying. It’s an attempt to manipulate everyone around you to see you a certain way. It’s also competitive, because in order to be a perfectionist, the only way you can judge your perfectionism is by others, so you are constantly comparing yourself to others. It’s nonstop. It’s never quiet and it’s exhausting. It’s designed to manipulate the person who’s the target of your affection or anyone around you.

“I had a sibling who was a perfectionist and manipulated teachers with it, and manipulated classmates and friends, and tried to manipulate her family with it. Everything was exterior, but inside this family member there was almost nothing there. She was so shallow that you never reached the core of her. It’s like static on a radio and you can never get to the center of the station no matter how much you fine tune – it’s not accessible. It comes from a complete lack of self-worth, from being completely invisible to yourself, so that all your focus and all your energy is directed outward at making everything perfect. Then you can escape yourself.

“But what is perfect? They latch onto something like eating perfectly, or their house looking perfect, or how they dress, or how their hair looks, or being the perfect parent, the perfect employee, or perfect shopper. Everything has to be perfect, except someone I know who is like this is obese. She is addicted to food as a way to numb the self-abandonment. But how perfect is that? That’s the paradox. The more weight she gains, the worse her perfectionism is to compensates, but yet when she feels insecure, then she eats more, and it goes around and around. There are people I know who choose to be vegans as part of their perfectionism, saying ‘Nobody cares more about the animals’ welfare than me. I do it perfectly.’ Or, ‘I raised my kids perfectly.’

“They confuse perfection with love and the saddest part of the paradox is that the perfectionism will keep them from ever experiencing real love on a spiritual level. That’s very sad to me. Our soul essence is already perfect because it’s a spark of the Divine, but the wounded self’s idea of perfection is unachievable. It is unattainable. It’s a lie. It’s a mirage and if you do it long enough and hard enough you end up drinking the sand. In the desert when people are seeking water, if the mirage is severe enough and goes on long enough, they end up drinking the sand because they convince themselves it’s water. So they convince themselves that the perfectionism is love, without ever knowing that their soul is already perfect. But the wounded self doesn’t believe that. The wounded self tells them the lie that they are not good enough. The wounded can’t see their own natural God-given perfection. As the wounded self, they don’t believe they have a perfect soul essence, so they have to make up for it externally. So, perfectionism comes from not knowing who they are. It comes from not liking who they are and not believing in who they are. So you live your life in this giant manipulation, this giant spider web. It’s very entrapping and very lonely.

“And they don’t know what’s being said behind their back. I’ve heard people say about a perfectionist, ‘I don’t like being around that person because it’s hard to relax around them. I become uncomfortable near a perfectionist because they are not real.’

“The trap is that it’s never going to be good enough no matter how hard you try. You’ll always be caught in the web.

 “Personally,” Erika concluded, “I love my imperfections. They are funny and they make me laugh.”

Are you addicted to perfectionism? Are you aware that if you feel you have to be perfect to be loved, that this is an addiction from your wounded self?

Karen, a member of our website, stated the following:

“For no obvious reason this morning, I was feeling anxious and depressed. I looked at it and realized that the false belief creating all this was that I have to be perfect in order for me to allow myself to feel happiness. Yet, there are so many conditions for me to be perfect that it is almost impossible to achieve. Still, I have driven myself to be ‘perfect’ sometimes and discovered that the ensuing happiness lasts about 2 seconds, and then I am exhausted.

“Lately, procrastination is somehow wrapped up in this conundrum too. Maybe I don’t even try things because I know if it’s not done perfectly, I won’t value it anyway. Most of my life, my critically inspired drive propelled me to achieve some amazing things, including opening my own business. Somehow, I feel that if I don’t criticize and punish myself then I’ll never go anywhere or do anything. Yet the truth is, right now, I’m not productive. There must be another way!”

Needing to be perfect is a form of control. The wounded, critical part of us believes that “If I am perfect (whatever that means!) then people will like me, love me, admire me, approve of me, pay attention to me, or validate me. Then I will feel worthy. I can control how people feel about me by being perfect.” The need to control how people feel about us comes from making others responsible for defining our worth. The false belief is that if someone likes you, then you are worthy, and then you can be happy. But, as Karen said, “the ensuing happiness last about 2 seconds and then I am exhausted.” Trying to be perfect is exhausting and the good feelings are very short-lived.

In addition, having to be perfect to gain approval often leads to procrastination. The fear of disapproval and failure if you are not perfect can be so great that it stops you from taking the action you need to take. Judging yourself to get yourself to do things “perfectly” often backfires, leading to paralysis instead of creativity and productivity, as it has with Karen.

Karen states that, “There must be another way!” There is, indeed, another way – a much better way, which I will be speaking to later in this podcast.

Do you believe that being “perfect” gives you control over how people feel about you – that if you’re perfect, no one will reject you?”

If you do, then you are coming from 3 big false beliefs that are causing you much unhappiness.

False Belief #1 is that you can have control over how people feel about you.

Think for a moment whether or not others have control over how you feel about them. Can someone do everything “right” and be “perfect” in their own eyes, yet you don’t enjoy being around them or you don’t feel connected with them?

Of course!

Others may influence how you feel about them, but they have no control over how you feel about them. If you are a basically accepting person, then you might like them even if they get angry or withdrawn. If you are generally a judgmental person, then there may be little they can do for you to like them.

Now turn this around regarding how others feel about you. Since you have no control over whether or not another person is accepting or judgmental, it stands to reason that you also have no control over how they feel about you, regardless of how perfectly loving, open, caring, giving, understanding, handsome, beautiful, or rich you are.

False Belief #2 is that there is a standard of perfectionism and you can reach it.

I grew up believing that there was a “right” and “perfect” way to be. Then I learned that what I thought was right and perfect was not necessarily what others thought was right and perfect. In fact, it seemed that each person had a completely different understanding of what it means to be perfect!

This was quite distressing to me, as it took away my illusion of control over how people felt about me. At that time many years ago, I was terrified of rejection, so it gave me great comfort to believe that if only I was perfect enough, then I would never be rejected. Without a standard of perfection, what would be my guiding light to feel safe?

False Belief #3 is that you are basically flawed and need to strive to cover up your flaws and appear to be better than you are.

As long as I believed that I was basically flawed in some way, I was afraid of rejection. When I learned how to connect with my spiritual guidance and see myself through the eyes of truth rather than through the eyes of my parents and others, I was able to see that my soul essence – my true self – is already perfect, a perfect individualized expression of the Divine.

What was flawed were my beliefs that were programmed into me and needed to be healed.

Imagine how life would be for you if you knew that you were already perfectly wonderful and incredible just the way you are in your true soul self? What if you could separate out the flawed, wounded, programmed part of you, your wounded self – the part you created to help you survive pain – from the magnificent part of you that God created? What if you could see that your ego wounded self – with all your fears and protections and ways of trying to have control over getting love and avoiding pain – is NOT who you are?

Then, instead of perfectionism being your guiding light, being fully and passionately yourself becomes your guiding light!

I assure you; this is a MUCH easier way to live!

It’s so much easier to be your wonderful self than to try to be perfect to control others and trying to control what we can’t control makes us miserable.

Have you ever noticed how bad you feel when you try to control things you can’t control – such as others and outcomes?

Stanley consulted with me because he was often miserable – despite running a successful business, and having a lovely wife and two daughters, whom he adored.

It soon became apparent that Stanley was deeply addicted to controlling everything – his own feelings, how others felt about him, how well his employees performed, what his wife did for him, how well his children did in school, and whether or not anyone ever took advantage of him. His primary intent in life was to be in control and not be controlled, in order to appear to be perfect. Stanley was addicted to controlling as a result of his addiction to perfectionism.

At the beginning of our work together, I informed him that in the Inner Bonding process, there are only two intents to choose from: the intent to learn about loving yourself and others, and the intent to protect against pain, with some form of controlling behavior. Stanley could easily see that his intent in life was to protect against pain with his non-stop controlling behavior. He had never linked his misery to this choice. He could see the irony – that, in his attempts to protect against pain, he was making himself miserable.

“Stanley, would you be willing to try an experiment? Every time you feel miserable, ask yourself, without any self-judgment, ‘What am I trying to control?”

Stanley agreed to try this.

In our next session, Stanley told me, “I think I’m on to something here. I’m amazed at how much I try to control and how bad it makes me feel. I’ve always believed that my anxiety and unhappiness was coming from something outside myself – my wife, my kids, my business, my employees, my friends, or lack of them. I’ve believed that if only I were perfect enough, then others would give me a lot of attention and do what I wanted, and then I would feel happy. It’s very eye opening to begin to connect my unhappiness with my own controlling and perfectionistic behavior. Actually, it’s empowering! I think I’ve always felt like such a victim – others were not giving me what I wanted and what I needed to feel happy and good about myself.”

“Stanley, did you become aware of how you try to control your own feelings?”

“Well, I became aware that I am constantly judging myself and that this makes me feel awful. Is judging myself controlling?”

“Well, go inside and ask yourself what you hope for by judging yourself.”

“I think I believe that judging myself will get me to do things right and perfectly and then others will like me.”

“So by judging yourself you are trying to have control over your behavior, in order to control others’ feelings?”

“Yes, I think that’s right. But it makes me feel miserable.”

“Would you ever judge your daughters to get them to do things right and perfect so that others will like them?”

“Oh no, I would never do that! I never judge them. That’s not loving to them… Ah, and I see that it’s also not loving to me.”

Stanley not only learned to stop trying to control himself and others, he also learned, through his Inner Bonding practice, to open to learning with his personal source of spiritual guidance. As he learned to connect with himself and with his source of love and truth, he started to feel full and alive within. His joy and passion for life grew daily as he replaced his self-judgments and his addictions to control and perfectionism with self-compassion and gentle caring for himself. Needless to say, his relationship with his wife, children, employees and friends vastly improved as well.

What if you were to completely accept that you have no control over getting others to love you or approve of you. What if you accept that, when someone is in their ego wounded self, there is nothing you can say or do to get them to value you? What if being right or being seen as perfect just creates stress for you and does nothing to control others?

Once you fully accept the reality that you can’t control others – no matter how right or perfect you are, then you are free to focus on taking loving care of yourself. You are free to do your own Inner Bonding work. You are free to compassionately embrace your true soul essence and learn to give yourself the love and attention you are trying to get from others. You are free to help your inner child to not take the other’s behavior personally. You are free to tune into your feelings and your guidance, asking for the truth and learning to trust your feelings and your higher guidance.

Once your focus is on loving yourself rather than trying to control someone else, you will be amazed at how wonderful you feel, not trying to control. A major cause of stress is trying to control what you can’t control, and a major result of letting go of control and loving yourself is inner peace and joy, even in the face of others’ rejecting behavior.

When you decide to define your own worth instead of handing that crucial responsibility to others, you will stop worrying about what others think and feel about you. The problem is that, for most of us, our parents and other adults defined our worth when we are young. Of course, we saw adults as having the authority to do that. As we grew older, we gave our peers the authority to define us. But at some point, we need to shift from others having the authority to define our worth to our own higher, wise self or spiritual guidance having the authority.

In addition, we need to shift from defining our worth based on external qualities to our worth being based on internal, intrinsic soul qualities. As long as your worth is based on being right and perfect, and on externals such as looks or performance, you will worry about how other feel about you. But when your worth is based on your intrinsic qualities of caring, compassion, goodness, empathy, and joyfulness, then it is never on the line regarding your performance. This will free you to create and produce with freedom and joy, knowing that you can make all the mistakes in the world and still be worthy. Perfection never comes into the picture when your performance is a joyful expression of your intrinsic worth, rather than a form of controlling what others think and feel about you.

When you consistently practice Inner Bonding, opening to learning with a higher authority about your true, intrinsic worth, and embrace the beauty and wonder of your beautiful essence, you will stop thinking about perfection, performance, and what others think about you. You will know that you are already “perfect” in your essence, and that there is nothing to prove.

When you know your worth as intrinsic rather than based on your looks or performance, life becomes so much easier and less tiring. Instead of your addiction to perfection immobilizing you, you are free to fully express yourself and manifest your gifts and talents. Expressing yourself creatively and productively becomes fun rather than fearful!

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is the freedom to NOT be perfect or right – to make mistakes, to fail, to be wrong. Imagine the freedom you would feel if you could just be your beautiful soul self, and that mistakes or failures said nothing about your lovability or self-worth.

I hope you embrace this freedom!

I hope you join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

You can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:

And we have much to offer you at our website at

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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