May 5      

Today's quotation:

The pursuit of perfection has become a major addiction of our time.  Fortunately, perfection is learned.  No one is born a perfectionist, which is why it is possible to recover.  I am a recovering perfectionist.  Before I began recovering, I experienced that I and everyone else was always falling short, that who we were and what we did was never quite good enough.  I sat in judgment on life itself.  Perfectionism is the belief that life is broken. . . .

Rachel Naomi Remen

Today's Meditation:

I think that I easily could have become a perfectionist, and in some ways I still am.  I'm constantly revisiting my teaching, for example, to try to improve it and make it as good as I possibly can.  Fortunately, I'm not a complete perfectionist because I can easily reach a point at which I say, "That's good enough" and relax and move on to the next thing.  I don't settle for mediocrity, but I don't try to be perfect, either.

And I'm extremely grateful that I don't.  I've beaten myself up far too much over mistakes that I've made, over not being "perfect," over super-high expectations that I realistically never could have met.  I appreciate the fact that Rachel points out what's really at the heart of perfectionism-- everyone is always falling short.  To the perfectionist, everything can be better, which means that it's sub-par as it is.  Many people become perfectionists because they're afraid of the criticism they'll face if they aren't perfect, while others just like to judge and criticize because it makes them feel better about themselves if they can judge others.

Many of my students have learned that they need to be perfect in order to be accepted.  That "B" just won't cut it; nor will an "A-."  When and if they don't reach their absolute maximum performance, they have to deal with stress and anxiety that debilitates them, that makes them extremely unhappy and even depressed, as Brené notes below.  The unfortunate irony is that most of them would tell someone else that they don't have to be perfect, yet they expect themselves to be perfect all the time.  And they make themselves pay when they're not.

It's okay to be imperfect.  If I try my hardest at something and don't accomplish it, that's okay.  I've dropped out of races and long runs because it was the right thing to do, and I don't make myself pay for it.  I say stupid things and I make mistakes on the job.  I deal with my error and move on.  But I won't make myself miserable for something that a truly rational person wouldn't make him- or herself miserable over.  If I want to live my life fully, I have to keep in mind that sometimes I'll fail and sometimes I'll come up short of perfection.

But that's okay.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many people fall victim to perfectionism?

How many people really judge you harshly?  How many are understanding when you make mistakes or come up short?

How many things do you do absolutely perfectly?

For further thought:

Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.

Brené Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection

more on perfectionism



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