Dealing with Low Self-Worth, Practices for Cultivating Love, Uncategorized, Working With Painful Emotions

Step Six: Releasing Punishment and Control

In this series of posts, I have been writing about how many of us unconsciously struggle with problems of perfectionism and self-hate, and this post is about releasing punishment and control. You can find links to the other posts in the series below. 

Step Six: I asked Love to show me how to release the need to be perfect, to punish, and to be in control.

The Need for Perfectionism, Punishment, and Control

The feeling that we are deeply flawed or radically unlovable is a very painful feeling. And some of the most common ways we try to escape it are through perfectionism, punishment, and control.


For example, if we believe that we are only lovable if we meet some external standard such as success, “holiness”, beauty, cleverness, etc., this can drive us to perfectionism. And it is easy to see why. If we are only lovable by meeting external standards of goodness, then any type of imperfection is a sign that we are unworthy and unlovable.

Therefore, we push ourselves to be perfect in all areas, or some areas of our lives, to be worthy of love.



And when we fail to be perfect, we punish ourselves. We may do this through harsh self-criticism or through self-hate. Or we might to it by setting newer, higher, and increasingly unrealistic standards for ourselves. We may also push ourselves to work to hard and fail to rest or take care of ourselves.

In addition, we may push others to be perfect. It is especially likely we will do this if we believe our friends and loved-ones reflect on our personal worth. For example, we may punish them when they fail to meet our expectations.


Both perfectionism and punishment are tools we use to try to control ourselves and others so that we can get the love we desperately crave.


A Dead-End Road

If you see you sense that you struggle with perfectionism, punishment, and control, there’s no shame. A lot of us have been there and still struggle with these same issues.

But is important to realize that perfectionism, punishment, and control are a dead-end road. That is because they will never help us escape from self-hate and find the love we need.

Perfectionism, punishment, and control require us to be absolutely perfect in every way 100% of the time. And they tell us that we must do this in order to be worthy of love. As you can see, this is unrealistic, impossible, unnecessary, and actually a false requirement.

The alternative, then, is to give up these faulty attempts to find love. And the alternative is to realize that it is actually possible to love ourselves unconditionally right now just the way we are. And we can also further realize that loving ourselves is an important part of finding the love we so desperately need.


Now, if you are like a lot of people, the question immediately arises, “How can I love myself right now? I am so flawed. I’m gross.”

One of the primary ways we do this is to ask Love (however you conceive of it) to help us to infuse all our relationships, including our relationship with our self, with love. And we can ask it to help us let go of perfectionism, punishment, and control.

Learning how to do that is the subject of our next post.


You can keep reading below:

Step Seven–Love-Infused Relationships

Or you can start from the beginning:
Seven Steps to Love: Recovering from Self-Hate

And you might also like these books about self-love: 

bell hooks, All About Love

Christine Arylo, Madly in Love with Me

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