The Trap of Perfectionism


I didn’t even see it happening.

I didn’t even notice it slipping into my brain, my body, every layer of my consciousness…

It came with a mask of “reality”. It sounded like “practicality”. It told me it was “responsible”…

And my body knew better, but I fell for it.

These past few weeks (and months perhaps) I’ve been in a cauldron of change. With moving into a new home and office, new relationships, old relationships resurfacing, new academic and soul adventures calling, I have slowly but surely been pulled into the trap of perfectionism

In my quest to be “responsible” and “practical” and “level-headed” about this swirl of change, my body and mind have contracted into what looks eerily like patriarchal oppression. 

It looks like “keeping it all together” …. and it feels like stress.

It looks like “managing my finances” …. and feels like drowning.

I believe this trap of perfectionism is rooted in mistrust of self, other, and the world that we are trained to do. During this time of change and upheaval, I’ve seen my thoughts pull into rigid thinking patterns. I’ve felt my body solidify into tension and tightness. I’ve noticed that my dreams have been quite dull, tired, faded, and small.

While I’m all for self-care in all its forms including having a secure and nourishing home, maintaining a balanced and well-fed financial life, and listening to my dreams and taking real-life steps towards them, what I’ve experienced these past few weeks has not been like this. It has been what we often assume is “normal” in dominant North American consumerist culture—“normal” is clamping down so hard in an effort to stave off any hint of instability, change, or chaos that every drop of life, juice, and pleasure is short-circuited.

God forbid chaos! And god really forbid pleasure…

And yet what the hell else is there in this world besides chaos, change, and instability? People in female bodies know this perhaps better than any other species. We know, deep in our bones, that chaos and change are rooted in an underlying sense of order, pace, and timing.

Our bodies know and communicate through the chaos of blood, pain, emotions, and pleasure that we are on time, on track, and fertile.

I credit my willingness to succumb to the messaging that my natural chaos cannot be trusted to my recent plunge into perfectionism.

I credit my well-trained ability to take on the beliefs of a culture that for so many generations and centuries has hated, vilified, and oppressed the feminine way of being in the world, that my intuitive, nonlinear path has been stifled and contracted and forced into a box way, way too small for it.

 I credit our collective tolerance for violence against women for my tolerance for internal self-violence I’ve experienced these past few months. 

We are not born violent people. We are not born with self-mistrust and self-hate and fear of the world. This is a process that is taught—often explicitly and, more often, through demonstration.

Perfectionism is the symptom of a culture that continues to embody ideals that do not feed, much less satisfy, the feminine soul.

So where are you held in perfectionism today? How has fear of your own light, your own wild darkness, infiltrated your consciousness? 

If fear and self-hate haves seeped into your heart, today on this bright full moon is a good time to recognize this practice of institutionalized self-hatred, look at it, honor it, love it, and, perhaps, let it go.

With love and surrender to all that is,

Kathryn Holt