The Stressful Life of Perfectionism
When I turned 12, I discovered boys. The very next moment, I discovered a need for clothes from the “big girls” section and a hair dryer for some snazzy styling .¨ something I hadn’t ventured into up to this point. The days of getting up, slapping on my Garanimals and air drying my hair were over. Now, I worked hard every morning before school to make certain that I looked just “right”.
Let’s face it – there was some stiff competition for the cutest boys. If I wanted to be in the running, I needed to get my game on. I needed everything to look perfect so I would be accepted and maybe land a boyfriend.
Fast forward to 24 years old.I was just starting my career as a risk manager and safety consultant. At that time, I was learning all I needed to know to do that job – the math, the chemistry, the engineering stuff and the specific way to write the very technical reports. I loved that job and worked seventy hours a week to make certain I did all of it just “right”. I wanted my work to be perfect so my boss would think I was a worthy employee, so I’d get raises and so my parents would be proud of me.
Do you see a pattern? I could provide many similar stories because, until recently, I thought I had to be perfect in order to be okay, accepted, liked and loved. I pursued perfection in everything I did, but my mind never let me feel like I ever obtained it. It was a grueling way to exist and it was a lot of stress to keep that charade going year after year.
But, I wasn’t alone.
Being Flawless is a Total Misperception of Reality
A lot of us are plagued with perfectionism.
The strange thing is that we believe in it enough to pursue it relentlessly, but it never gives us what we want. Still, we keep going back into the ring with it, trying to be perfect anywhere we think we have a shot. The main problems with perfectionism are that it imprisons us and keeps us from truly enjoying our life.
When we look a little deeper at perfectionism, we can see that it means being flawless. This means we seek a level of success that is untouchable and unattainable.
In the western world today, we have set up a system of “more, better and faster”. We have been taught this fast-paced, high expectation system of thinking and living.
On top of that, we make our children’s lives miserable by teaching them the same whacky system. Being perfect may be possible if we are talking about test scores or bowling, but being perfect in life is a total farce.
The feeling that we need to be perfect is driven by an underlying message that most of us receive when we grow up and that message is, “I’m afraid I’m not good enough”. Perfectionism is one way we try to counteract or overcome not feeling good enough about ourselves. The problem is that there is no payback. Furthermore, when we think of others in the realm of perfectionism, we either think everyone else is imperfect (and we don’t mind telling someone about it) or we think we are the only person who isn’t perfect and then we feel even worse about ourselves.
The fact is neither scenario is real since the original perception about perfection wasn’t real.
Let me explain that.
We are All Perfectly Imperfect
No one is flawless. No one is perfect. We can’t obtain perfection and we can’t be perfect because we are all perfectly imperfect. What does that mean? It means that we are perfect just the way we are, if we have to use the word perfect at all. What else could we say instead? Nothing. We don’t need to describe ourselves or others based on any scale of good enough or not good enough. We can practice just letting people be as they are. Wouldn’t accepting someone, including yourself, be a much more powerful gesture of love than to judge anyone based on some self-determined, unattainable scale?
We are all perfectly imperfect.
That statement may provide some relief and relaxation since now you know that everyone is already good enough just the way they are.
That includes you. There is nothing more to do, to obtain, to become .¨ there is nothing more to add to you. You don’t have to be perfect to be accepted, liked and loved. You are worthy of all of that just the way you are. This is reality.
I know this now and on humid, rainy days I put on a hat or a scarf to protect my do. I
am no longer preoccupied with protecting it and I get to enjoy the day no matter what it brings. I realized that my life isn’t over because my hair is fuzzy.
I have left the stress of perfectionism behind on many scenarios in my life, though it is still a work in progress.
This week, take this time to practice accepting yourself as you are. Sure, you can still wear makeup and glamorous gowns. But, know that you are as wonderful, valuable, lovable and perfect without all of that. You are perfect just as you are right now.
It is time to understand the reality of perfectionism and then let it go in favor of the truth about you. You are already ok. You are already worthy of all the love in the universe!