Many neurodivergent individuals know all too well the pain of perfectionism. It doesn’t matter whether it comes from anxiety, ADHD, autism, a trauma-response, or even has a name, the never-ending pursuit of perfectionism causes harm. It’s a constant cycle of setting high expectations for ourselves, of becoming visibly distraught when we don’t meet these impossible tasks, and vowing to do better next time with a renewed sense of “I’ll get it right.” Too often, our perfectionism is rooted in trauma. We believe that unless we clear some unattainable bar, we won’t be loved or respected.
I’m here to tell you two things.
First, you are worthy of love and respect without conditions. You don’t have to “do more” to earn affection; you have it simply by being here. And if there are people in your life who tell you otherwise, they’re wrong. Totally and completely. No one should need to “earn” respect and love from anyone. That which is not freely given is not your fault. Ever.
Secondly, for those who practice ahisma, or non-violence, when we set high bars for ourselves or impossible goals, we are not practicing non-violence towards ourselves. It’s one thing to have high expectations; we should always try to do the best we can in the moment. However, when we set those expectations and then belittle or demean ourselves for not reaching them, when we use those circumstances as opportunities for negative self-talk, then we are not being peaceful with ourselves. Instead, we’re inflicting the emotional pain that often comes from our negative self-talk. We diminish our capability to believe we are worthy of love or respect.
For many of us, those high expectations come from a place of trauma. Neurodivergent individuals are often told they’re not “trying hard enough” or “need to do better”. We internalize these phrases, start to think they somehow affect us as a person, and a part of our healing means removing these negative self-beliefs from our inner landscape. They often crop up again when we try to set high expectations, so it’s vital that we are honest and reasonable with ourselves.
We need to be gentle with ourselves, to treat ourselves as we would treat a trusted friend or loved one. Then, we can ensure we’re practicing ahisma and honoring the principle of non-violence.