7 Questions to Help You Identify and Heal from the Root of Perfectionism
- Alicia Michelle Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2022 2 Jun
As a Christian mindset coach, I encounter many people who struggle with perfectionism. These are hard-working, well-intentioned Christians who love Jesus but never quite feel like they’re enough. They’ve heard repeatedly that they’ve been redeemed in Christ, so they don’t have to prove themselves worthy to God, yet they still find themselves stuck in over-functioning and a need to achieve to feel good enough.
I know this battle with perfectionism first hand. For most of my life, the crippling weight of perfectionism led me to push my self-care aside and run my heart, soul, and body ragged. Perfectionism was the driving force behind why, for most of my life, I slept only 4 hours a night, worked every weekend, and was continually barraged by a harsh, unrelenting inner critic. My toxic behavior culminated in a life-threatening medical crisis in 2017 where God literally gave me the choice: Was I finally going to let Him show me how to find healing from perfectionism, people-pleasing, and achieving as worth; or would I keep running from these core issues that were literally stealing my life?
Through my personal experience and work with hundreds of women as a NeuroCoach, I’ve learned that healing from perfectionism starts by discovering the core subconscious thoughts behind our need to be perfect. Let’s talk about how to start this healing process.
Healing from Perfectionism Starts by Addressing the Core Thoughts
Brain science and the Bible both underscore the importance of managing our thoughts because every behavior starts with a thought (Proverbs 4:23, Matthew 15:19). Because our thoughts determine our beliefs, and these beliefs create our actions and results, behavior change must first start with thought change.
When it comes to perfectionism and other aspects of our identity, we all have core subconscious thought patterns that run the show. These subconscious patterns are not necessarily logical or moral but come from the primal, survival side of the brain and are formed based on our experiences.
Around the ages of nine to 13, without even realizing it, our subconscious mind has answered key questions about our identity, such as “what do I need to do or become in order to be loved, worthy, or enough?” For better or worse, these key subconscious thoughts form the backbone of how we process these important truths about how we relate to others and how we find self-worth. For example, suppose we’ve learned at an early age that we are only “good enough” when we achieve or do well. In that case, we’ll subconsciously feel the need to continually compare ourselves to what we’ve decided it looks like to “do well” instead of leaning on the truth that we’re already worthy in Christ.
These types of unhealthy answers to core questions around love and worth are a big reason why, for example, many women “know” God’s truth but don’t “feel” it in their hearts. Many of us have heard verses like 2 Corinthians 1:20 that state we’re enough in Christ and don’t have to strive to prove our worth. But if we have these core subconscious thoughts running in the background, it’s like God’s truth is hitting a brick wall inside our minds as the subconscious patterning continually overrides it. Like a supercomputer, the subconscious relies on the reinforced thought patterns that have been created instead of the healing truth of God.
In order to find true healing from perfectionism and other self-sabotaging behaviors that keep us from operating from the confidence of God’s promises, we must take responsibility for those untrue mindsets we’ve allowed inside.
The good news is that our brains are ever-changing and always adaptable. Brain science calls this “neuroplasticity,” which means that our brains are continually being shaped by every thought we have and experience we encounter. As Christians, this is even better news because we have the Holy Spirit inside us to guide us into all truth as we take control of our thoughts (1 Corinthians 2:16, 2 Corinthians 10:5) and choose how we build our minds. We have the ability to determine what thoughts our minds will focus on, and this is the starting place for truly renewing these core subconscious thoughts so that they line up with God’s truth.
How does this happen? We must take practical steps to find mind renewal by lovingly examining these core soundtracks about identity by asking some key questions and using brain-science and Bible-based mindset tools to change these “broken” core soundtracks to reflect God’s loving, life-giving truth.
Photo credit: © Unsplash/kinga-cichewicz
7 Questions to Identify the Root of Perfectionism
As you begin to notice patterns of perfectionism in your life, I invite you to look at these behaviors, especially the thoughts behind perfectionism, with loving curiosity. For many of us, our natural response is to punish ourselves for our perfectionist behavior, shaming ourselves for not being able to let go of the need to prove ourselves and perform to feel good enough. However, instead of instantly shutting down perfectionistic behaviors, what if we started paying attention and asking ourselves a few questions to learn more about why those behaviors are present?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself in the spirit of God’s gentle, loving-kindness to address the root of perfectionism:
What are the specific parts of my life where perfectionism is most prevalent?
What people, situations, or experiences tend to trigger my inner perfectionist?
What are some ways I try to make myself appear perfect, feel like I need to prove myself to others, or otherwise feel “not enough”?
What are some of the specific thoughts I notice around these areas of my life as related to my perfectionism? What am I telling myself regularly?
Why does my struggle with perfectionism make sense? What are some past experiences that may have caused perfectionism to be my attempt to make myself feel enough, worthy, or loved?
What are some of the specific fears I’m feeling that could be behind my perfectionism? Based on my past or current experiences, why does it make sense that I struggle with these fears?
What is the core need here that perfectionism is attempting to solve? How may I be able to meet that need in a different way from a spiritual, emotional, physical, or intellectual perspective?
Healing from Perfectionism Is Possible
In the Christian Mindset Makeover, we use all kinds of exercises to help you get to the root thoughts behind your perfectionism or any other self-sabotaging pattern like people-pleasing, anxiety, and feeling unloved. We use proven brain science tools (such as brain priming) as the vehicle for rewiring our core subconscious thoughts so that our minds will reach for biblical truth instead of these toxic thought patterns that may have developed.
If we want to heal from perfectionism, we need to do more than just “think happy thoughts” or tell ourselves to stop thinking a certain way. We must use proven neuroscience and biblical truth to change our thinking patterns from the inside out so that we can heal from perfectionistic behaviors and step into the peace and confidence that is ours in Christ.
Instead of shaming yourself for struggling with perfectionism, I encourage you to lovingly pay attention to the thoughts behind perfectionism, ponder some of the questions shared in this post, and let God speak to you about how He may want to heal these mindsets. Imagine how much freer and happier you could be if you were able to live fully from the promises of God and no longer be stuck in perfectionism! Friend, hope, and change are possible! I invite you to take back control of your thoughts and your mind—no matter how entrenched toxic thinking patterns like perfectionism may feel—and allow God to partner with you in your healing from perfectionism using brain science-based and biblical tools.
Photo credit: ©Priscilla du Preez/Unsplash
Alicia Michelle is a certified NeuroCoach and host of the award-winning Christian Mindset Coach Podcast. She loves equipping Christian women with practical brain-and-biblically-based tools to overcome anxiety, perfectionism, and self-sabotage so that they can cultivate godly confidence. Get her free training on how to overcome negative thoughts and manage anxiety at VibrantChristianLiving.com.