Perfectionism as a Coping Mechanism

I downplayed my own trauma for a long, long time.


My coping mechanism was perfectionism.


I learned as a child that any sign of weakness would be twisted and used as ammunition against me. I thought, if I could be “good enough,” “perfect enough,” if I could just prove myself “enough”… maybe the abuse would stop.


It didn’t.

So I tried harder. And harder. And harder.

By the age of 22, I had racked up so many accomplishments in the name of trying to prove myself. I didn’t feel a single one of them.

Early on, I learned not to let anyone know my real emotions. It was just too dangerous.


I found a journal entry recently that I wrote in 2015. In it, I said that I felt sad all the time, but I couldn’t show the sadness to anyone because “people don’t like sad people.” I thought that if I showed my vulnerability, people would attack, judge, or leave me for it.


I still truly, deeply held this belief in my body until recently.


It’s only been over the past year or so that I’ve actually been showing my real, raw emotions to people without trying to shut them down. And because this belief was so deeply internalized, it felt absolutely shocking when they responded kindly to me.

The lessons we learn from abusive, traumatic spaces are incredibly hard to shake. Especially when they directly helped us survive.


For a time, these learnings kept us safe. This time expired a long time ago.


And I can now say from direct experience — not everyone will treat you like that.


There are so many people on this Earth who want to love you. Not just the shiny veneer of you, but all of you, deep down, exactly as you are.

There are so many people who will not only refuse to harm you further — they will also help you heal.


They are all around. They exist absolutely everywhere, except maybe the places you've been before.


If you haven’t met them yet — I hope you believe it when I say they are out there. It took me a long, long time to believe it myself.


There is so much beauty, kindness, and tenderness you’ve yet to experience. What is available to you now is so much better than what came before.


Your people are out there. And they simply cannot wait to love you.


Tawny

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