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Natural vs. Sick Effort

Two People Making Effort to do Seva
Episode No. 231

What is behind perfectionism? What is natural effort? Why are we already perfect? A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Podcast First Words

Question: I was wondering if you can talk about perfectionism?

Shambhavi: Perfectionism is an aspect of titan realm. Its core attitude is competitiveness and also jealousy of other people. The inner feeling is—I’m not really as good as I wish I were, and a fear of being unmasked.

Being a perfectionist—taking anxious care with things, never feeling like you’ve got it quite right, and trying to overcompensate in that way—has at its core a fear of being shown up for not being as good as or worthy. So that’s what you need to get to in order to relax a little bit and not try in an anxious way.

It’s fine to put a lot of effort into things. There’s nothing wrong with that. We have to put a lot of effort into anything that we’re apprenticed to, whether it be spiritual practice, our work, or our family. That calls for a lot of effort.

But there’s a kind of effort that has sometimes been called sick effort. Sick effort means effort driven by the anxiety to prove oneself in some way. It means to stave off or protect oneself from the fear of being caught out at being lesser than—even being caught out by oneself. You know, the kind of perfectionism that is sort of aware of what it’s doing, aware of the anxiety that’s driving it, or aware of the fear of not doing well enough.