The Root Cause of Perfectionism in Highly Driven Empaths
In this series, I’m answering the top questions that highly driven empath women ask about the nervous system. One of the top questions is about the root cause of perfectionism and overwhelm.
Do you feel the need to control everything? Are you constantly setting unrealistically high expectations for yourself? Do you always feel overwhelmed? Why do these perfectionist tendencies show up in your life?
Perfectionism has a massive impact on the way you feel about yourself and the world around you. It can deeply impact your mental health, fostering low self-esteem, self-doubt, unattainable goals, a massive fear of failure, and of course, emotional pain and discomfort.
By learning to regulate your nervous system and addressing your perfectionistic tendencies, you’ll improve how you relate to yourself and improve your performance in all areas of life.
I’m going to speak to that unhealthy perfectionism that always shows up in your life. And I’m going to show you how women with a regulated nervous system have succeeded in easing it.
Before I dive in, I want to let you know that we are currently offering a FREE detailed Nervous System Profile.
This is perfect for you if you are experiencing…
- A sense of overwhelm, increased alertness, and underlying anxiety.
- Feeling irritable, overly reactive, easily frustrated.
- Signs of chronic stress or embodied trauma (e.g., sleep problems, hypersensitivity to sounds and smells, pain in the neck and shoulders, back pain, tension.)
Our Client’s Story of Overcoming Perfectionism
We have a client that is a doctor with two children. She’s a single mom with a lot on her shoulders. One of her children has special needs, and she juggles a very demanding professional life. As a doctor, she needs to be present and precise with her patients. She was also working to build a new relationship while also dealing with her children’s father, who was a colleague at work.
Before this client started her healing journey with us, she put an enormous amount of pressure on herself. She felt that everything needed to be perfect. She needed to follow a certain standard she had set for her job, her relationships, and her own performance.
So, how did she overcome perfectionism? We worked to get to the core of her desire to do things perfectly – of being a slave to her perfectionism. We were finally able to discover what was holding her back. We found the core wound that was driving her perfectionism, allowing her to transform how she related to herself and others completely.
3 Secrets Highly Driven Empath Women Know About the Cause of Perfectionism
Here’s the secret that highly driven empath women with a regulated nervous system know about easing perfectionism:
Perfectionism is not simply about being perfect or avoiding failure. From a neurobiological perspective, at the core of perfectionism lay a deep sense of shame, not fitting in, and not being enough. Your nervous system feels threatened, fearful of being cast out of the group or rejected by society.
To your nervous system, this fear is the worst possible outcome. We have evolved over millions of years to do one thing very well: connect and bond with other human beings to survive.
As a species, we no longer have to deal with the constant threat of predators. However, many of us had early childhood experiences with parents who had unrealistic expectations of us and felt they were under constant pressure themselves to be perfect.
Many perfectionists are highly driven women in a mostly male-dominated world, and we are wired to avoid shame. We feel that we must do it all, be perfect, and never let others see us struggle. And never, under any circumstances, are we allowed to make mistakes! As well-intentioned as these unhelpful thoughts may be, we must learn how to quell our own expectations and especially our overly critical self-evaluations.
At the core of perfectionism is a need to control our outside reality, especially when there is chaos inside ourselves. The more we get lost in our internal turmoil and chaos, the more we cling to perfectionism and overachievement. I see this all the time in high performing, high achieving, exceptionally driven women.
Letting go of perfectionist tendencies and behaviors is a learning process, however, it is important to take even the smallest steps in the right direction.
So, here’s what I want you to do the next time you catch yourself setting unrealistic standards for yourself:
Pause for a moment to remind yourself what is at the core of this perfectionism: the shame and the fear of not being enough.
Remember the little girl you were years ago and take time to feel how much she wanted to be loved; To be liked, accepted, and feel that she belonged. I want you to sit with that little girl and tell her, “I am here for you. I love you. Keep going. You don’t need to do everything perfectly to deserve my love. You’re amazing just the way you are.”
Stay with those feelings and experience how it feels in your body. Perhaps you feel a sense of warmth, or some tension has been released. Take time to feel this sense of ease in your body.
Follow these three steps when you are feeling the pressure and overwhelm of perfectionism. This simple act of self-care can quickly take the focus off of your negative thoughts and bring you back to a space of self-compassion. I’d love to hear back from you about how it works for you!
Where to find help in overcoming perfectionism
Want to find clarity on the cause of your perfectionism and see fast and powerful changes towards feeling calm and more regulated?
If you are struggling as a sensitive and perfectionist overachiever, you can find peace by working at the nervous system level by leveraging its neuroplasticity. Perfectionism, like any habit, is a set of associated neurological pathways that have become ingrained through repetition from an early age.
We teach people how to regulate their nervous systems, including addressing attachment wounds that lead to perfectionism, in our highly affordable, world class program The Nervous System Solution.
To learn more about the root cause of perfectionism, how it fuels anxiety, and what to do about it, read How Perfectionism Relates to Anxiety – And How to Manage It.
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Dr. Linnea Passaler
Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.