5 ways shadow work can help your perfectionism
Are you a perfectionist looking for a cure? Discover how shadow work can help you break free from the shackles of perfectionism and find the solution you need.
Ahh – perfectionism. That cute, sort of useful, sort of annoying trait that we love to hate, and can be weirdly proud of when people say things like “Wow – I’d never have managed all that detail, how do you do it?!!”.
The truth that hides behind the mask of perfectionism is that it can actually be a difficult and oppressive way to live, as it often involves an obsessive focus on meeting unrealistic standards of excellence and a fear of failure and rejection.
When you are motivated by avoiding criticism or fear of getting something wrong rather than an internally fired love and passion for the work you are doing, it’s easy for the joy to get sucked out and replaced with stick anxiety and pressure to perform – so how can you face and learn to master your perfectionism rather than allow it to master you?
Here are five ways that Shadow Work can support you to tame and befriend your perfectionism demon.
Hang on – what is this Shadow Work you speak of?
Before we get too deep in, let’s get clear on Shadow Work in case it’s new to you. Shadow work, is a form of self-exploration that involves examining and integrating one's unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and can be a powerful tool for overcoming things like perfectionism as it invites us to turn towards rather than away from those darker parts of ourselves. Here’s how.
Increase self-awareness: By examining the unconscious thoughts and feelings that drive your behaviours – like the need to have things just so - you can gain a deeper understanding of your own motivations and patterns of thought.
Knowing where your perfectionism comes from and feeling equipped to challenge those beliefs can help you to deconstruct the high standards you hold yourself to and find a healthier balance of more realistic standards of excellence.
What would be different if you still valued quality and excellence, but were able to find a balance that felt playful and full of potential, not critique? What would you do differently if you felt motivated simply by the passion of creating over achieving a certain result?
Promotes emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise, understand and manage your emotions in supportive, healthy ways.
When you are able to acknowledge and accept your own emotions (especially the ones we have been taught to ignore or push down – rage, guilt, shame, envy etc), then rather than trying to suppress or ignore them, you can begin to learn how to regulate them more effectively.
Increasing your emotional intelligence builds resilience as it supports you to face and move through the feelings that come from experiencing setbacks and “failure” (whatever that means) so you don’t feel discouraged or overwhelmed by them.
Imagine not being afraid of failing – what would become possible for you? What would you do if you felt impervious to getting it wrong? How would you show up if you were immune to judgement?
Facilitates personal growth: By examining and integrating the unconscious parts of yourself – something which comes as a result of regular shadow work practices – you can gain a greater sense of self-acceptance and self-compassion rather than self-judgement and self-criticism.
Knowing more about yourself, being curious about your story and who you are can lead to a greater sense of authenticity and personal growth.
As you begin to learn how to embrace your imperfections and celebrate your unique strengths and qualities, you get to decide for yourself, free from external expectations and conditioning what good looks like; what success feels like and how you want your life to be.
If you could do anything, what would it be and why does it matter to you? What currently gets in the way and what strengths do you have that could help you overcome it?
Improves relationships: Hands up if you have ever avoided conflict in a relationship for the sake of wanting to maintain an appearance of everything being perfect *raises own hand*.
Perhaps you have been reluctant to express your needs, set a boundary or ask for more support?
We can often put the appearance of things being perfect ahead of true happiness and connection in a relationship which can have a longer-term impact once things finally blow up under the pressure of appearances and maintaining the status quo.
When you are able to be more honest and authentic with yourself, it becomes easier to create deeper, more meaningful relationships and express compassion for others too.
As you become more aware of yourself and your shadow, how those hidden and public parts of you interact and impact your behaviour, it becomes easier to be less judgemental of others; be willing to have open communication; set healthy boundaries and express your needs from a place of connection.
When you know who you are and what matters to you, then you can find ways to resolve conflicts in a more healthy and constructive way by staying grounded and open instead of reactive and combative.
And when you can have difficult conversations from a place of feeling grounded and without judgement, then your relationships get an upgrade from being surface-level perfect where no one argues (because no one is expressing their needs) to deep and meaningful where you’re not afraid of having those hard conversations.
What conversations would you have if you knew you could navigate them with confidence? What needs would you express if you no longer feared the fallout of voicing them? What truth would you speak if you could?
Reduce stress and anxiety: So much of the stress and anxiety we experience in life comes from the fear of how other people may respond to who we are and what we do, so we create a persona that is designed to be as perfect and pleasing as possible to avoid conflict and disappointment. Turns out living life this way is exhausting and is one of the main causes of burnout.