The Problem with Perfectionism and Pleasing for HSPs

My high-achieving HSP clients value excellence. They are tender souls who do their best to create healthy loving relationships. They want to make the world a better place. The problem is, they often lose themselves while helping others.

In the following anecdote, you’ll read reflections by a client who attended one of my weekend retreats: Breathwork and Deep Emotional Healing for Highly Sensitive People. My client is in her early fifties, gifted, and creative. She’s a mother of two grown children, a homemaker, and married to a successful businessman.

Here’s her story.

“I learned more about myself in Benita Esposito’s retreat than in the last five years of therapy with other providers. This retreat is the single most impactful experience of my personal growth journey.

“I found Benita when I googled “Highly Sensitive Person Retreats.” I was feeling unfulfilled in life. I felt depressed and unmotivated despite having a wonderful life. My chronic body pain was worsening, and I struggled through the day due to low energy.

“I had a handful of private sessions with Benita before the retreat. I appreciated her warm yet firm guidance. I felt well-prepared, excited, and a little nervous going into the weekend retreat. I could sense something BIG was going to happen!

“Perfectionism was one of the main issues I addressed. Why did I have to be so perfect and strong? What was driving this compulsion? These questions set the stage for my discoveries.

“When Benita pointed out that I communicated in a seductive way, I felt stunned. I was unaware of my coy behavior. Instead of feeling offended, I was curious to understand what she saw.

“Benita noticed that I tried to get people to connect with me by asking questions with a charming smile and a gleam in my eyes. I ended many sentences with, “Ya know?” to draw people in. The trouble with this was that I wasn’t expressing my real thoughts and feelings. She guessed that I was afraid to show up as my Authentic Self.

“I began to observe my people-pleasing mask. Benita encouraged me to be compassionate and curious about this coping strategy. Why had I developed it? She guided me to explore long-held beliefs and emotions.

“I needed A’s on every report card. I needed to be beautiful and sexually attractive. I felt ashamed when I cried, so I hid my anguish with a smile and superficial conversation. Vulnerability meant weakness. I never focused on myself because that would be selfish. I didn’t take good enough care of my body, so I was in physical pain almost every day.

“My image of perfection had prevented me from being aware of underlying shame. I felt ashamed when I admitted to Benita that I felt insecure. How could it be that I felt inferior? I was gifted. I received accolades all my life. But, deep down, I felt alone and lonely. Judged. I judged myself when I wasn’t perfect. I was afraid people wouldn’t love me for just being me.

“In the retreat, I realized that I had lost connection with my Authentic Self when I was a child. That’s when my Inner Critic took over my life like a drill sergeant. She made sure that my inner people-pleasing Adapted Child acted appropriately. That’s how I got attention. The Critic required perfection. It was my safety net. My protector. These inner parts covered up the scary feelings of being unlovable when I wasn’t perfect.

“I didn’t know how to connect with my Inner Child who felt insecure. I didn’t even know these feelings and coping strategies existed until this retreat.

“Benita explained that it was necessary to heal the Inner Child’s insecurity and emotional wounds. This was a prerequisite for me to get in touch with my Authentic Self and stop the people-pleasing coping strategies.

“Unpredictable tears rolled down my face several times during the retreat. I discovered something new every time I was willing to feel my vulnerable emotions. As I sat with the pain of my Inner Child, it felt like being washed clean by a warm summer rain.

“Benita taught me how to connect with my Authentic Self. In turn, my Authentic Self comforted my Inner Child as she cried. My Inner Child felt seen and loved for the very first time. She wasn’t as scared then, and she began to trust my Authentic Self. She was opening up little by little. My inner family members were developing a secure attachment with each other.”


Before the retreat, I had no idea that allowing myself

to feel the vulnerability that I had kept hidden all my life

would lead me to feel genuine and solid inside.


“Fortunately, I had the whole weekend to practice my new skills and develop a degree of mastery before returning home. Things that had felt out of place in my mind seemed to be reordering themselves without effort.

“Since returning home, I have experienced success in several areas.

  • I can communicate directly instead of manipulating people to draw close to me. I am more assertive. I have the courage to ask for what I want.
  • I learned that I was “living in my head.” I was dismissing the intelligence available through my body and emotions. I am more in touch with my body. I can regulate my emotions and reduce stress. When I am mindful of my vulnerable feelings, my body doesn’t have to bear the burden of unprocessed emotions.I have less pain.
  • Instead of depression, I feel more joy, creativity, and peace.
  • I have increased self-confidence and renewed energy.

“It has been life-changing to wake up each day knowing the road ahead is full of new opportunities. I feel more empowered to design a life uniquely satisfying for me.

“Benita lives her truth and walks her talk. She shares her connection with the Holy Spirit. She helps me deepen my spiritual relationship which I had let slide. I am so grateful for Benita’s loving presence which allows me to feel safe, comforted, and free to explore. I look forward to our weekly sessions. I am getting stronger while being true to my Authentic Self.”

~  K.R, Homemaker, Canada

If you would like to join us for a retreat, please read all the details: click here.


About Benita A. Esposito, MA

My favorite topics include authentic power for highly sensitive people, personal mastery, self-actualization, conflict resolution, team building, communication skills, stress management, and emotional intelligence. When not working, you’ll find me sprucing up my flower gardens, playing with my cat, Bucky, or hiking through the forest to a waterfall.

Contact me, Benita A. Esposito, for online classes, HSP groups, HSP life coaching, spiritual counseling and intensive retreats. 

Banner photo credit: Benita A. Esposito

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