Stages of Spiritual Development: Overcoming Anxious Perfectionism

Jun 6, 2015 | EMDR


Anxious perfectionism sounds like this:

  1. I’m not a good writer, so I never write.
  2. I can’t leave this job because…
  3. I dress to hide my thighs.
  4. My mom expects me to be there, so…
  5. If I said what I really think, I would go to hell.
  6. God expects me to…
  7. I can’t believe I still…
  8. If I worked harder, I could be…
  9. I’ve picked the wrong partners.

I get an occasional bout myself. It strikes like a virus and causes me to think and do irrational things. I change clothes six or seven times before I can leave the house. I fret over unfinished projects. I feel like a failure, like I missed some important turn in my youth and wound up in the wrong place, having missed the opportunities that would have made me rich and kept my body young.

But I know better. There are no mistakes.

A dear Buddhist friend has been telling me that every part of life belongs there, a part of my curriculum. Every flaw: there to teach me something. Every “wrong” turn: intended, necessary, part of my path. Every disappointment: perfectly calibrated to do something for me. Every regret: vital to the entire mosaic of my soul’s evolution.

In his book, “Proof of Heaven,” neurosurgeon Eben Alexander writes about his near-death experience, and what he learned through a profoundly life-changing contact with the spirit world. I won’t even try to summarize his amazing book. It’s a must-read for anyone who thinks about their worth or their death or their relationship to The Divine.

Dr. Alexander brought back a few fundamental truths from his week in coma, namely, that a powerful spirit loved him deeply – and that he could make no mistakes. The overwhelming message he received in this vast and splendid world was his inherent goodness and indissoluble lovable-ness.

Just sit with that a moment…

Those things feel right to me, though they can’t be proven scientifically. They bring me peace. My higher self knows they are true.

One key to navigating the stages of spiritual development is embracing how perfectionism gets in the way of creativity. It comes from false notions about what is good and what is sub-par. It happens when we overexpose ourselves to the popular media, where the images of successful lives are completely contrived. It gets handed down in families. It generates anxiety. It stops us from appreciating what we are and who we are. It makes us think we should have done something differently, somewhere, somehow, instead of what we did. It separates us from Divine Love.

Let’s remake some of the thoughts above. Try them on for size. Let me know how these work for you…

My thoughts and feelings deserve space. They exist for a reason.
I trust myself to take creative risks.
I have good and interesting ideas.
I have the right to write. I have the right to create.
I am loved deeply and completely.

For more blog posts about stages of spiritual development, visit these links:



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