Perfectionism is not only an impossibility, it’s the height of arrogance. Why? Because perfectionists (like me, although I like to think of myself as a “recovering perfectionist” these days) hold themselves to a different standard.
Here’s what a perfectionist is saying to the world every time she strives for perfection: It’s okay for you to make to a mistake, you’re only human. Me? I’m different. I have to be perfect.
Why, Ms. (or Mr.) Perfectionist? Aren’t you human, too?
Yes, I guess I am.
We all are. So, none of us is perfect, none of us is ever going to be, and that’s okay. That’s great, in fact.
Because if we start from the idea that we are not perfect and never will be, we can get a lot more done and, even better, we can have more peace and joy in our lives.
Perfectionism stops us from ever beginning a new project because once we start we have to make it perfect.
Much easier never to start.
If “it has to be perfect,” there are so many things we’ll never even try, because beginners are not perfect, and that is just not okay with us perfectionists.
However, If we can let go of that mindset (and I know it’s not easy), we can try so many new things.
Martha Beck has said, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly.” I totally agree but every time I make that statement in public, I get eye rolls, gasps of disgust, and much disagreement.
Granted, you don’t want your doctor to care for you badly, but why do think doctors train for so many years under supervision? So they can think things through and put forth ideas and learn from their mistakes before ever getting close to a patient. We all have to start somewhere. You can’t become a master without first being a beginner.
Perfectionism has no place in a happy life. Striving for excellence and doing our best are all well and good, but I believe the fear of making a mistake paralyzes many people into total inactivity.
No action means no good coming from what you did, no knowledge gained, no insights learned, no forward motion at all.
In a recent post, I talked about good decisions. Not perfect decisions: Decisions that are made to the best of our ability in that moment. That’s all we can do.
Berating ourselves for making bad decisions in the past, or for anything in the past, for that matter, is useless.
It’s one thing to analyze the result of a decision and use it to make future decisions. It’s another thing to beat yourself up about past decisions because they didn’t turn out to be perfect.
You know what? They never will be perfect. Ever. If you can accept that now you will move forward with compassion for yourself which will be extended to (and manifested in) the world around you. Doesn’t that sound even better than perfect?
Let me know in the comments.