The Curse of Perfectionism

Photo credit: Facebook/ZentoZany
Photo credit: Facebook/ZentoZany

How many of us strive to be perfect at what we do? And end up failing to do it at all because we don’t believe we can do it perfectly? Or end up burning ourselves out because we are aiming to achieve perfectionism when 80% is way good enough and gets the job done.

How many of us are looking for the perfect partner? Then end up alone because all we see are faults? So what if they leave the top off the toothpaste tube – have separate toothpaste tubes. The only question to ask yourself is, “In the great scheme of things, do they make my life even better?”

“You don’t love someone because they’re perfect,” she says. “You love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.” ―     Jodi Picoult,  My Sister’s Keeper (UK)

How many of us have dreams, but can’t realise them because we are waiting for conditions to be perfect?

Whose perception of perfection are we striving for – our own, or what we believe others expect of us?

Is it better to do something perfectly, not at all, or just get it done?

I remember making my mother a sandwich when I was a little girl, I believed I was doing something nice and helpful. I also remember her sending me back to the kitchen with it several times because the butter was not spread right up to the edges of the bread.

I also remember my mother once spending 2 hours cleaning a steel kettle. She wasn’t at all house-proud, and the rest of the house was a mess, but that kettle was the shiniest, sparkliest kettle you ever saw.

Sadly, as I’ve got older and wiser, I have realised that this was how she was conditioned as a child. She developed a false belief that nothing she did was ever good enough. Unfortunately, she thought that was the way to be a parent herself.

A highly intelligent woman, she massively underachieved in life because she had this fear of not being perfect; 99% wasn’t good enough, 100% had to be her expectation or she wasn’t even going to try.

“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”
―     Jill Churchill (UK)

I recognised this in myself when I did a higher Mathematics (A Level in the UK) course. I got a C. I’d never got a C in almost anything in my life, not anything that was important to me. Even worse than that, I found out I was only 1 single mark away from achieving a B grade. Well, I was so annoyed with myself. I was prepared to re-sit an entire year of study to gain that one mark, despite my son’s school headmaster telling me that even a D at that level is an excellent achievement. I did begin the extra year, but did quit after putting myself and my family under a lot of pressure. And even with the qualification I did achieve, it enabled me to start and run a successful mathematics tuition business.

What you have to realise is that even by trying, you are way ahead of those who don’t try at all through fear of failure.

If you ask any successful person in their field of business, many will tell you of their failures along the way. When Thomas Edison had over 10,000 attempts at inventing the lightbulb, he did not see 10,000 failures, he said he successfully found 10,000 ways it did not work.

Perhaps you don’t aspire to be a hugely successful entrepreneur, perhaps you’d like to be an artist or achieve something personal to yourself. The fear is the same, and the way to overcome the fear is the same – just get out there and start something!

I have wanted to write since I was a little girl. My favourite present when I was little was a portable typewriter off my grandma. Perhaps due to my conditioning, feeling I wouldn’t be very good at it (perhaps due to an English teacher at school who, I now believe, downgraded my work because I would correct his spelling and he called me rude and refused to have me in his class!), I did not pursue my passion. I am writing this over 30 years later. It’s not perfect. I don’t mind. I am enjoying it. I’ve made a start, and I have just enrolled in a beginner’s Creative Writing class.

The reason why we strive for perfection, and why we struggle to find it in others, is because we don’t recognise that we ourselves are perfect already. We are awesomely, amazingly, perfectly imperfect exactly as we are. When we can recognise that in ourselves, we don’t need to project anything less than that out into our perception.

Learn to love your imperfections. They are what make you perfectly YOU. You are unique. There is nobody else on the planet exactly like you.

“In the infinity of life where I am,
All is perfect, whole and complete,
I no longer choose to believe in old limitations and lack, I now choose to begin to see myself
As the Universe sees me — perfect, whole, and complete.”
―     Louise L. Hay,  You Can Heal Your Life

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