Ego Traps Part 4: Achievement and Perfectionism

Achievement is success, right? And perfectionism is an admirable trait? That’s debatable.

Photo by Fauzan Saari on Unsplash

The Achievement Trap

Achievement: to set a goal and reach it.

Hooray for you! But… wait. Does it feel like joy? Are you in a state of shared joy with others? Is it a winning situation for everyone?

Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, it’s collective joy and triumph. Something to relish in. Something to have gratitude for.

But sometimes, it’s a societal push and based in negative feelings.

Say for instance that you are on a path to be number 1 in your sport. You start out excited to go play. You have friends in the sport. You honestly enjoy it. And post match, you can always say “hey. Good game.”

Then, it becomes competition rather than cooperation. It becomes forcing your body past its limits. Playing through pain. Working against someone else. Feeling like if you don’t get to the top. you’re letting everyone else down. Pressure mounts. It’s no longer joyful, but a grind. You feel isolated. But your ego won’t let you slow down and do what your heart is asking.

This is an inner torment a lot of people deal with. And in fact, is causing concern over mental health in high achieving athletes.

The Perfectionist Trap

I remember looking at my friend in the 5th grade and saying “I just want to be perfect. Don’t you just want to be perfect? All the time in everything?”

My friend looked at me in utter confusion. “No.” She said “Perfect is boring.”

Kristi was perhaps set free from the illusion of perfectionism, but I wasn’t. I was trapped.

What was worse was that most people in my life considered perfectionism to be a virtue. I didn’t find out until well into adulthood, thanks to Brene Brown, that perfectionism is in fact an ego trap, and I then finally realized it drove a lot of my personal mental health issues.

Perfectionism is not healthy striving toward a common cause or goal. Perfectionism is the fear of being judged for making a mistake.

And it literally paralyzed me on several occasions, to the point where I had to remind myself to breathe. It kept me from trying new things. Making new friends. Seeking new adventures. It kept me in a tiny bubble of “I know I can succeed if I stay right in this space.” But I still looked over my shoulder constantly, thinking that everyone was judging me.

The fear of judgement, which I will dive more into later in a separate trap post, is a favorite ploy of the ego.

The ego will ridicule, shame, and torment you if you let it over being “found out,” “judged,” or “disliked.” He reminds me of the mom in “Carrie,” the movie, saying “They are all going to laugh at you!” over and over again.

Breaking free from these cycles

I think the first step in breaking free from these ego trap cycles is to recognize when you’re caught, and then to speak truthfully of it. I think a lot of my life, there has been shame around mental health, and around the ego voice, like “if you tell someone you have an inner dialogue, they’ll think you’re nuts!”

Well, we all have egos. And we all have Spirit. And the more we shed light on these, the more we can help free ourselves and others.

The other piece has to do with seeking the voice of your Higher Self, God, or Spirit. She will never shame or judge you. She will only want joy, peace, and Love for all involved. Her guidance, which may come from that deep, quiet, inner knowing, or it may come through another person or an angel, will ground you in the deep knowing that you are enough as you are right here today. And that these needs for achievement or perfectionism will not lead to true success or perfection. Only pain.

What then is true success?

Success can be defined in many terms, but I like to think of Jim Rohn‘s quote: “He who serves the most reaps the most.” We are here, after all, for each other, are we not? Think about the difference in how you feel when you serve others to the highest good of all. Including you.

Don’t get that confused; it’s not serving others despite yourself. It’s true service with and for yourself for the good of all. That’s what true success feels like

Have you ever felt true success?

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