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When Perfectionism Leads to Self-Punishment

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Let's talk about punishment.

The earth-shattering consequence of a minor mistake.

The endless examination of how it happened, and how to make it never happen again.

The blurring of your vision and the envelopment of deafening silence which sequesters you from the world.

The sorrow you feel for the mess you made and fear you hold that it can never be cleaned.

The challenge you make to your creator about your purpose, your existence.

The penance you seek in some futile attempt to redeem your perceived corruptness.

The starving.

The retreating.

The disregard for self.

The suppression of desire, and even need. Basic, basic need.

The apologies you make to no end.

And the apologies you're forced to make when you realize your relentless apologies have now outweighed the problem.

If only your worth did, too.

If only you could see in these moments that you do not deserve isolation or deprivation, that starving yourself of food, love, acceptance, joy, and the pure bliss of imperfection is moot.

If you've found your way here, the above might not be unfamiliar. You may experience this when you make a misstep. You may live this every day in the way you show up in the world. I started this post with the word "punishment," and from the label of "earth-shattering" to the over-apologizing and everything in between, it is nothing but punishment indeed.

Once, after a rough day of mistake-making, a consoling friend asked me "are you allowed to be fallible?" His question caught me so off guard I stumbled to answer. I tripped up on the idea that my heartache wasn't about how much of a mess I'd made but, instead, my inability to accept myself is human.

So what do we do in those moments? Breathe. Go outside, change your literal perspective. Smile, move around, don't live stiff in your tension. Don't isolate, reach out to a friend who will ask you the right question and remind you that you're okay, as you are. Because you are. And deep down you know it.



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