How to let go of Perfectionism

Written by Master Charles Cannon


“The heart is wiser than the intellect”.

- Josiah Holland (1819 – 1881)

We often speak of the importance of creating balance in the physical, emotional and mental dimensions. Known as the denser dimensions, these three are the foundation upon which all our subtle dimensional experiences rest.

If the foundation is weak and out of balance, any dysfunction or imbalance (physical, emotional, mental) is exaggerated when we flow subtle energy through them during meditation.  The result is what we call clearing or processing.

When dealing with emotional processing, it is helpful for meditators to have an understanding of the patterns, conditioning and emotional wounds they have accumulated during their journey through life. That way, when they experience emotional processing, it can be the means to achieve profound insight.  When insight is coupled with expanded holistic awareness, there is potential for radical release, deep healing and true transformation.

To assist with the process of clarifying the ways in which we operate, consider the basic, underlying patterns or “schemas”, as described in the work of Dr. Jeffrey Young.    

A schema or pattern is “a habitual, mechanical response, arising in the face of certain circumstances or conditions.  However, once we recognize it for what it is, it begins to lose its power over our lives. In other words, we begin to wake up from the dream that we have been living.  As Master Charles often reminds us, “transformation is through awareness”.

This post will focus on the schema of perfectionism.
Perfectionism can result from parents who are constantly critical of their child’s performance – no matter how good it is.  The result is a deep sense of inadequacy in the child and he/she learns to strive and keep striving in the hope that through this effort they will retain their parent’s love.

The emotional root of this schema is “a sense of failing, no matter how hard you try.”

Beneath that feeling, are layers of sadness:

  1.  Sadness because you feel you must continue to perform better and better to win your parents love and approval.
    2)    Sadness because you feel you are not accepted for who you are, but for how well you do.

The motto for this group of people is “I have to be perfect.”  They see the world through a lens of unrealistically high expectations, have unrelentingly high standards, and drive themselves to do their best and more in order to prevent the likelihood of criticism. This can have some payoffs for their work and career, but no matter how well they do, they believe it is not enough. They drive themselves beyond the point of balance until the rest of their life suffers – health, relationships, their ability to enjoy life, etc.

Such people are easily impatient and irritated, and often experience stress-related disorders such as colitis or tension headaches. At the same time they must cope with feelings of melancholy at missing out on life because they are too dutiful.

Perfectionism can also apply to sports, school/study, physical appearance, spiritual pursuits, and social status.

The internal self-criticism and self-reproach of the perfectionist are relentless. Some also try to hold everyone else to their ultra-high standards and are very critical of others for their perceived failings seeing their criticisms as correct and appropriate.

Signs of perfectionism include:

1. Always pushing yourself to do better and better.

2. Feeling like there is never enough time to accomplish everything that you have set for yourself.

3. Being “grim” and tense about your activities so that something like a work-out at the gym becomes another tense area for accomplishment driving the fun out of life.

4. Constantly postponing gratification.

If you feel a resonance with some or all of this description, let it be your contemplation over the next week. Observe the pattern and all the ways it operates in your life. Notice the energy with which you undertake your activities, consider your childhood history and note all the areas that are currently out of balance thanks to this pattern.  

Transformation begins with awareness.  May we all have the courage to see ourselves as we truly are and the strength to begin to change what we no longer wish to create in our lives.



About the Author

Master Charles Cannon

Master Charles Cannon

Master Charles Cannon is a modern spiritual teacher, founder of Synchronicity Foundation for Modern Spirituality, and developer of the High-Tech Meditation and Holistic Lifestyle experience. His work over the past 40 years has helped transform the lives of millions worldwide who respect him as one of the truly innovative spiritual teachers of our time.