According to trauma therapist Kobe Campbell, the quest for perfectionism might inadvertently be doing us more harm than good.
Many of us assume moving on from unpleasant past life experiences involves embarking on a journey to become the "best" versions of ourselves. Be it spending long hours in the gym working on that ever-so-elusive summer body or trying to master as many skills as humanly possible or trying not to get triggered by certain things, we devote all our energy to reinventing ourselves into a "new and better" iteration of our past selves. And when these efforts don't bear the results one hoped they would, a person can become overwhelmed by a sense of guilt and shame at not meeting their unrealistic expectations.
According to trauma therapist Kobe Campbell, this quest for perfectionism might inadvertently be doing more harm than good. In a video that went viral on TikTok last month, Campbell explained how instead of trying to be perfect, one should try to allow the "worst version of yourself" to be loved instead. "Some of us have turned healing into becoming this super perfect version of ourselves; that is bondage. That is anxiety waiting to happen," she says in the video. "Healing is saying: 'Every single version of me deserves love, deserves tenderness, deserves grace.'"
"When we get to a place where we can see and empathize with every version of ourselves, even the version of ourselves that we can sometimes be ashamed of, that's when we know that we are walking in a path of healing," Campbell added. Over a million TikTok users viewed the short clip and thousands left comments praising Campbell's different perspective on healing. "Wow... this shifted my whole perspective and made me realize my idea of what 'healing' is isn't actually healthy, thank you," wrote @jazminphillips425. "So true! I burned myself out thinking I was 'healed' when really I was just a perfectionist to a neurotic level," commented @MissSeaShell.
@kobecampbell_ Let the worst version of yourself be loved #mentalhealth #innerchild #innerchildhealing #traumahealing #LearnonTikTok #anxiety #therapistsoftiktok #christiantiktok #trauma #traumatok #traumahealingjourney #relationships #selfcare #selfcareroutine #healing ♬ original sound - Kobe Campbell, LCMHC
"Reminds me of the statement my therapist told me. "You don't have to be perfect to be loved,'" shared @Lanaye____. Speaking to BuzzFeed about her video and the overwhelmingly positive response to it, Campbell explained that the reason why some people equate healing with "becoming the perfect version of themselves" could be because: "It’s been marketed to us. The American dream, at its core, is about arriving. It's about getting what you want because you've finally become 'good enough' to deserve it. So many people think their life is hard because they’re just not good enough to deserve good things. I think we've conflated 'success' with 'healing' because we've been told in so many ways that good things will come when we're more healed."
Campbell further explained that because of this societal norm, "Many of us think we aren't deserving [of something good] until we get to a certain place in our healing. The truth is we are deserving now. This is why [the above] perspective can give people the courage to continue journeying in healing. When we begin to pursue perfection instead of acceptance, we end up never satisfied with who we actually are in the present. We're always putting off loving ourselves, living authentically, and letting ourselves experience good things. That's where the healing happens. In the living."
"And even when we do finally meet the 'perfect' standards we set for ourselves, we become anxious about maintaining that 'perfection' to the point that we can't even enjoy reaching the goals we set for ourselves," she continued. "'Perfection' is a moving mark that leaves us ever-striving and never dwelling. When we try to be 'perfect,' we miss the goodness we have now as we are." Campbell explained that unless we get compassionately acquainted with the "worst" version of ourselves—the one "that was most rejected and experienced the most pain"—we end up traumatizing ourselves and embodying the same traits of the people and situations that made us feel unlovable.
"Healing has to include correcting the painful narratives of the past," she said. "It has to include giving ourselves tenderness when we expect wrath. Giving ourselves acceptance when we expect rejection. That emotional correction, rooted in acceptance, gives us the freedom and courage to become more of ourselves. To feel at home with ourselves... One of my favorite activities that I do with clients (and myself) is asking them to imagine the version of themselves that they're most estranged from [while] sitting in an empty room. Imagine yourself at the age that you were. Really envision yourself. Take in your physical posture and facial expression."
Then, Campbell said, ask yourself this question: "What did I need when I showed up as that person? And how can I give that to myself now?" When it comes to healing, she believes it is important to remember that it's about getting curious instead of being judgmental toward ourselves. "Empathizing with every version of ourselves is about seeing the traits we typically distance ourselves from and instead, seeking understanding of the 'why' of the traits that arose instead of the 'what,'" Campbell said. "It's about connecting instead of rejecting."