We all have parts of us that are trying to protect us from feeling or experiencing pain. Whether these parts don’t want us to re-experience something traumatic or hurtful from our past. Or these parts think we can’t handle feeling certain emotions, they each mean well.
But if our protective parts are left in charge of our inner and outer lives, they actually end up causing us more problems. Such as driving us to burnout and being all work and no fun. Or helping us check out of our bodies so much that we don’t feel present in the relationships we do value.
Perfectionism Is A Part That Is Trying to Protect Us From Something
My inner perfectionist is one of these protector parts. When she is fully activated, she can be really harsh and forget that I have a body to tend to. She pushes me to do more and work harder when she feels anxious. Which isn’t all bad, but she is driven by fear.
My inner perfectionist is worried that I can’t handle disappointment or things not going my way. So if she senses uncertainty or being outside my comfort zone, she is anxious, critical, speeding up, and telling me to do more. Or if my inner perfectionist sees something not working out, she will abandon my goals and pretend like I never had them to begin with. As you can imagine, this was quite a wild ride!
Perfectionism Is Part of You, Not All of You
Once I started to see that perfectionism is a part of me, not all of me, I was able to start having a relationship with this part. Instead of merging and believing all the anxiety and harshness, I was slowly able to earn this inner part’s trust.
While my perfectionist part is still present in the background, it no longer directs my actions. I know when she is present and can choose to slow down and tend to what she needs to hear from me.
So whether you have a perfectionist part (or several protective parts), I’d love to share how I hold space for myself, so that you too can learn how to be a resource to yourself.
3 Steps that Can Help Calm Your Inner Perfectionist
- Notice What is Present: Slow down and tune into what is present within you. Notice any emotions, physical sensations, or thoughts that are present.
- Create Safe Space for Whatever Part Needs You The Most: Visually or with your breath create space for the part that needs you the most. Don’t try to fix it or get rid of it. Allow it space to be present, so it feels safe.
- Listen to What This Part Needs from You: When this part feels safe with you, ask it what it needs to hear or receive from you. Then give this to yourself.
These steps are exactly what I do with myself and my clients. Learning to hold a safe space for ourselves is really what therapy helps you create. So that someday, you’ll be able to do this without anyone guiding you.
Imagine a world where more of us are able to be a resource to ourselves. And not in a way that causes more pain, but a way that holds space both for the pain and our own loving presence. This is what I’m here for!
Marci Payne, MA, LPC is a licensed therapist in Missouri and self-love coach globally. She helps ambitious adults heal people-pleasing, perfectionism, and past hurts, so they are free to be themselves. If you are looking for more ways to be there for yourself when emotions feel like too much, grab my free, “Emotion Self-Care Guide” here.