OCD Distortion #1: Perfectionism

One of the distorted mindsets that drives patterns of OCD is perfectionism. I personally believe that every OCD sufferer will have to do business with some level of perfectionism issues in their life. But even if you are not struggling with OCD, perfectionism can certainly infect your thinking. 

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My Perfectionism Realization

One of the initial observations that helped my discernment in uncovering OCD patterns in my life was realizing the toll perfectionism had taken on my life. One day while doing some research, the symptoms of a perfectionist hit me like a flood. I sat back in my chair and realized, “Wow. I am a perfectionist.”

As I began to teach on perfectionism, many people began to tell me, “Are you reading my mind? Are you a prophet who can tell what I am thinking? You are basically describing my day to day life.”

Other people had no idea how perfectionism was influencing their life. 

Misunderstanding Perfectionism:

To this day, I will have people in a coaching session say, “I don’t have any perfectionism.” When in reality, their OCD struggles or day to day pressures they live under reveal massive places where the bondage of perfectionism is keeping them in unrest. 

They think because they may not be a neat freak or a super high achiever, then they must not be perfectionistic. 

Perfectionism is not just about high achieving performers . . .I

Perfectionism within OCD is about an internal nagging feeling that things are not “just right.” They don’t “feel just right” and they chase that feeling whenever it comes up.

Perfectionism fuels a sense of anxiety over things not feeling right. There is this nagging feeling of “incompleteness” and “uneasiness” that needs “fixing.” 

  • To get your thoughts “just right”
  • To get your spiritual life “just right”
  • To make sure the person you are marrying is “just right” for you
  • To make sure your inner righteousness is “just right” 
  • To make sure your house is organized and cleaned “just right.” 
  • To make sure your thought arrangement feels “just right.” 

The problem is this nagging “just right” feeling you are chasing never ends. The more you feed them, the more they will grow and hold you captive. 

Perfectionism in OCD keeps finding new things to point to that are not “just right.” Think you solve one and another one shows up. The feelings point to another thing that is not “just right,” so you bounce through all kinds of subjects in your thinking that are not “just right.” 

Perfectionism will always leave you unsettled. Meanwhile, it will drive you into all kinds of mental arguments, debates and behavioral patterns (compulsions) with the deception that by doing these things, you will land into peace and certainty. But it is a lie. An illusion. 

Perfectionists struggle in working through their emotions, especially because they don’t make room for weakness, struggle, flaws. Their focus is fix. 

I can tell a perfectionist right off the bat with their “fix” this mentality. You don’t get fixed. You need to learn to be loved and work through your emotions in a healthy way. 

OCD and Perfectionistic Pressure

Pressure often steals your peace and perfectionism creates pressure within. 

The way to begin identifying perfectionism is to locate the places of pressure in your thoughts. Emotional pressure that is put upon you by outside influences, your upbringing and how you yourself seek to feel safe and settled. 

Perfectionists can range from high level Type A achievers to the person, who in their day to day thoughts, cannot settle unless things feel “just right.” Most people will admit they struggle at the end of the day to feel they can land. They are troubled with constant feelings of things “not feeling right.” 

Issues Underlying Perfectionism

We fall into perfectionism, usually early on in life, due to an attempt to try to feel love. We develop a performanced based lifestyle with perfectionism tagging along very quickly. You react to broken and empty places of your heart by obeying the driving force that says you need to do everything “just right.” Over time, you develop a pattern to serve the voice of perfectionism. 

We respond to brokenness in our family, our upbringing and toxic experiences by exercising a sense of control. Perfectionism lives in the myth of control. You engage high levels of control in attempts to keep yourself safe. Perfectionism is also a way that we gain a sense of certainty. OCD sufferers hate any sense of uncertainty in their thoughts, so perfectionism comes in drives them to fix things in the pursuit of controlling them and finding greater certainty. 

When in reality, a perfectionist does not know how to be loved as they are. They think they need to be something or do something just right to be loved. 

When I pull back the layers of perfectionism in an OCD person’s life, there are broken issues of anger, brokenness and even depression that never get addressed. This is mainly because they are constantly lost in chasing these subjects in their mind that are not “just right.” 

The Pressure of High Standards

Perfectionism comes down to an inward pressure that is based on intensely high standards. For OCD, it usually fits a specific topic, but it can also hit a bunch of categories. 

High standards in spirituality, thinking patterns, relationships, cleanliness, order or areas of right and wrong. From the surface, they may seem to be admirable standards. But deep inside, the person is not at greater peace. They are moving further into personal conflict, agitation and even torment. Others around begin to notice over time, saying, “Your standards are too high,” or “don’t be so hard on yourself” or “not everything’s perfect.” 

The high standards within an OCD sufferer leads them to constantly feel the driving urge to make things feel “just right.” Many times, they can get momentary “relief” by fixing or living in some way according to that high standard. That momentary relief is soon tossed aside as another issue rises to the surface that violates the inward standard. 

This creates some perfectionistic pitfalls that we can fall into:

Perfectionism Pitfalls:

  • Unrealistic standards 
  • Black and white thinking: with no room for process. 
  • Intense Rule Following: they look for the rules, but miss relationship
  • An internal pressure that steals peace and joy. 
  • Takes you out of relationship awareness with your heart and gets you lost in your head being consumed with something that does not “feel right.” 
  • An “all or nothing” kind of mentality. 
  • A heavy inner critic. 
  • Major control issues . . . even though control is a myth. 
  • Struggle to receive feedback or helpful criticism. 
  • Procrastination: not taking action due to a fear of failure . . . 
  • Mistakes are Fatal. You become afraid of doing something wrong. 
  • fixing/editing/redoing until something “feels good” or “feels right” 
  • Heavy discomfort and even distain for flaws or failures. There is an intolerance for error. And they must be addressed immediately

Religious OCD and Perfectionism: 

Christians can attribute those high standards and perfectionistic patterns to God, as though they are honoring God and His ways. When it is said this way, it creates an easy cover. It’s hard to debate someone’s “God-lens.” But for those with religious OCD, their God-lens has been deeply distorted. 

With ROCD and perfectionism, one can come under a great deal of pressure regarding their spiritual life. Perfectionism can greatly distort and damage a person’s faith walk; especially because perfectionism will disconnect you from God’s unconditional love, His grace and the imperfect journey you are on. 

Perfectionism is a major driving influence for Christians that have not been equipped in the ways of grace and love. It keeps performance driven Christianity, law based living and religious legalism

Religious OCD and Distorted Faith Subjects

Certain subjects of faith lose context, meaning, purpose and intent. 

Perfectionism throws off the interpretation . . . 

  • Salvation, trusting God, eternity 
  • Holiness, “Be Perfect”
  • Purity
  • Right standing with God, righteousness
  • “Doing What is Right”
  • Repentance
  • Deliverance
  • The law 
  • Obedience, sacrifice, surrender
  • Guilt-confession, scrupulosity
  • Grieving the Holy Spirit, Blaspheming the Holy Spirit, Committing the Unpardonable Sin
  • Correction, Conviction
  • The Holy Spirit Leading, God’s voice
  • Judgment of God or a Loving God? 

What Religious Perfectionism and ROCD Reveals: 

  • An emptiness of connection to the Father’s love, love for yourself and nurture. 
  • You never feel “just right” about your standing with God. 
  • Without love and grace (relationship) you lose HEART and CONTEXT of the Scriptures. 
  • Prayer, fasting and repentance are chores you make sure you do so that you are not punished or that you can try to gain a sense of being loved. 
  • You beat yourself up all the time for mistakes, sins and failures. 
  • You beat yourself up for things you don’t even need to think about. 
  • You procrastinate taking on new things for fear of failure. 

Healing from Perfectionism that Fuels OCD: 

  1. Recognize the cost of continuing in perfectionistic patterns. 
  2. Learning to experience loving acceptance, where things are, right now. 
  3. Re-learn what “safety” means in the midst of when things don’t “feel right.”
  4. Shifting how you find validation, love and safety. 
  5. Let go of the pressure to be anywhere or be anything. 
  6. Become appreciative of relationship connection more than “things feeling right.” 
  7. Celebrate weakness and vulnerability
  8. Starve that drive to fix or make things “just right.” 

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