The Spiritual Lesson Your Perfectionism Is Trying To Teach You

mbg Contributor By Tanya Carroll Richardson
mbg Contributor
Tanya Carroll Richardson is a professional intuitive and spiritual author who is passionate about angels, beauty, and nature. She has been in the NYC publishing world as a writer and editor for over 15 years.

Photo by Chelsea Victoria

Perfectionism gets a bad rap. I'm a professional psychic intuitive, and when I tell a client I can sense that they have a tendency toward perfectionism, they will often respond by saying, "Ugh, I know! My perfectionism is terrible!" This kind of response only leads to feelings of shame and self-judgment.

If you struggle with perfectionism—at work, in your relationships, with your health, with your appearance, or even with your spirituality—you're not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, perfectionism is indeed on the rise. But there's good news: I've seen that being a perfectionist (or better yet, a perfectionist in recovery) can deliver some crucial spiritual lessons. Here's why:

1. Perfectionism gives you a chance to practice self-love.

Perfectionism might be something that exists in what Carl Jung defined as your "shadow," or those parts of yourself you don't want to see or acknowledge. Yet, if you can look at your shadow, admit that you have perfectionistic tendencies, know that they will sometimes become activated, and still love your imperfect self in those moments anyway—you really have achieved a big spiritual feat. Congrats!

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2. When you want to get something "perfect," it might be a clue to your soul's callings and destiny.

The things we care most about, where we have the tendency to overly attach to outcome, are probably tied up in our soul contracts—the feats we are really destined to achieve in life. So when you feel perfectionism's vice-like grip, remember that whatever you are trying to get "perfect" is something you already came here spiritually equipped to accomplish.

Most spiritually minded people believe we are all here for a reason or, more than likely, many reasons, which is a concept I encourage teens to explore in my new book Zen Teen. If you're a parent white-knuckling a holiday to give your kids the perfect experience, or if you're an artist trying to get your latest piece just right, your desire for perfectionism in these moments is providing you with important spiritual information. So relax—it might be part of your destiny.

3. To pull off your destiny, you must believe in yourself, and perfectionism shows you believe you are capable of amazing things.

Most people see a tendency toward perfectionism as a totally negative character trait. But remember that things are rarely entirely "good" or "bad." Perfectionism shows you think you are capable of more or better and that you want to push yourself to achieve it. This is all great stuff as far as living up to your destiny and highest potential is concerned.

Just remember that your ultimate destiny is to show up as your "flawsome" self—flawsome being a combination of awesome and flawed. Perfectionism does not allow for flaws, but some of your flaws are actually part of what makes you awesome.

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4. Perfectionistic inclinations can enhance your mindfulness practice, as they give you something to consistently work on.

Think about your mindfulness practice like your gym routine: You will only strengthen your mindfulness muscles if you're working with some resistance. Being self-reflective enough to realize you sometimes slip into perfectionism is an ideal mindfulness barbell that will strengthen your overall mindfulness practice. In this way, working on perfectionism will have a ripple effect that improves other areas of your life.

5. Perfectionism forces us to hit bottom and find a more compassionate way to relate to ourselves and others.

Many spiritual people might disagree strongly with someone but ultimately fall back on the concept of mercy and nonjudgment. Perfectionism is the opposite—it's the harshest critic in the universe. But since perfection is impossible to achieve, it's also an unsustainable force, which has the pattern of doing the opposite of its intention. In other words, perfectionism usually makes things worse instead of better.

Folks who once struggled with perfectionism often hit bottom, broke apart, and had to find a more merciful, compassionate way forward. If you are a perfectionist in recovery, whenever this tendency starts to activate, it can become a wonderful reminder to treat yourself and others with compassion.

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6. Sometimes our greatest challenges hold the possibility for our greatest enlightenment.

It's a spiritual truth that while the collection agent hounding you to pay your bills on time or that lover begging you to open up to a new level of intimacy might be annoying, they are ultimately trying to get you to grow. Addicts in recovery might feel that their addiction was their greatest teacher. In the same way, perfectionism might be that annoying grain of sand in your life that eventually becomes a pearl.

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