Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
I first heard this quote by author, speaker and self compassion guru, Brene Brown and I was so taken aback by the of truth that blares out of this statement. The truth that we often ignore. The need to throw all good efforts out the window if perfection cannot be attained.
It has a lot to do with our own sense of “not good enough-ness.” I once had someone tell me we all feel not good enough. And when we get upset, angry, frustrated with someone remember that they are acting out of their insecurities just like I would act out from own insecurities. Because we all, in some sense, feel not good enough in our own way.
Not feeling good enough can cause us to disguise our imperfections, in attempted perfectionism.
For most of my life I would never, ever call myself a perfectionist because a perfectionist is someone who just wants everything to be to just right, who takes the time to make things look beautiful, and is never satisfied. I mean, I have sloppy handwriting, I do not care about the presentation of my food and I often go out and about in my sweatshirt because I really could care less, as long as I’m comfy.
So when I was told I had to let go of this perfectionism thing, I said, “Please, do you know who you are talking to?” In my attempts to deny this nonsense, I realized that I DO have an overwhelming concern to do everything “right” and spend my days comparing, about why everything in my life, including myself, is not good enough. Ah perfectionism at its finest.
Perfection does not represent happiness.
The trap comes when we associate doing every thing right, (being perfect) with automatically bringing happiness and joy into our lives. And when we do things wrong, (when we are not perfect, act perfect, or look perfect) it represents that we are not worthy. “Perfect” does not guarantee pain free living. We use perfection for approval and acceptance, for someone else to tell us that we are ok. Ironically the only way you will ever truly feel ok is if YOU accept yourself, imperfections and all. No one is immune to perfectionism and we all experience it on some level.
The way we can overcome perfectionism and its association with all things good and wonderful, is to practice a little self compassion for ourselves and a little gratitude for what we have. When we realize that perfectionism (a perfect house, perfect eating, a perfect wardrobe, a perfect life) is just a cover for what we are shameful of (inadequacy, a lack of money, a lack of confidence in appearance, embarrassed about our bodies), we can learn to be more accepting of our lives, ourselves and those around us.
Can you see here how practicing gratitude (abundance) is loving yourself and acknowledging that you are doing the best you can, rather than focusing on lack?
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Another issue with perfectionism is that it IS a perception. We see others and think they are living the perfect life all simply by what we choose to see and interpret what it represents. It usually happens a little like this. You are going about your day, maybe just completing an intense workout, dressed super cute or gave a bad ass presentation in your field of work. And then it happens. You compare yourself to your friend who had a “better” workout, the family with the gorgeous house, the person with the successful presentation, or the attractive women. You let it take away your joy.
Believe me, I struggle with this all the time. I compare myself all the time. Whether it is to the perfect body, the perfectly dressed, the highly successful, or the perfect way of eating, working out, living. Somehow this interprets being enough in my head. No wonder I am stressed and anxiety ridden. Sometimes you can be the juiciest peach of the bunch and and there will still be someone who doesn’t like peaches. Get what I am saying?
How to be good, when you can’t be perfect.
I realized I had somehow trained myself to ignore my strengths and progress I am making in life, and have chosen to focus on my weaknesses and shortcomings.
You know what?
The woman with the perfect body, she has her struggles too.
The effortlessly matched fashionista, may not view life as effortless.
The successful business person, they have challenges too.
I keep the practice of reminding myself that other people being successful does not mean that I am not. I can only control what I do each and every day and cannot completely control the outcome. Life does not fold out to the plan we have in our heads. Life does not unfold without challenges, struggles and hardships. When we accept that into our lives, we can stop trying to control everything around us and can still keep doing what we are doing to be good, without having to feel perfect. My own standards are some made up ideal I have in my head and when I let that consume my thoughts, it makes me feel inadequate. If I choose to keep the focus on my own progress I can see just how far I have come.
Deep down I know everyone has their own challenges and burdens. We all feel inadequate in our own ways. The struggle is to not let our self proclaimed inadequacy rob our happiness and self love. We must realize that how our bodies are shaped, how our clothes look, whether our dinners look like they do on Pinterest, or how much money we make, does not define our worth or value. We are not only successful when we reach our goals, but have little success along that way that should be celebrated each and everyday. It is possible to have ambition and feel blessed with the life you have at the same time.
Tip and Tools to keep my perspective in check:
When I feel myself getting down about not being a certain way or meeting a certain standard, I ask myself.
Did I wake up with a roof over my head and food in my tummy?
Am I am healthy and able bodied?
Do I have friends and family in my life who love me?
Do I make time for activities in life that I truly enjoy?
I tell myself.
Don’t be afraid to fail and do things differently.
Be patient with yourself.
You are enough.
Do not let goals define your worth.
When we have perfectionistic tendencies we have a difficult time with gratitude because we are always striving for the next best thing. It is not about the destination, it is about the journey. It is about the journey and the ups and downs that come along with it. When we start to think about our lives in this way, we can expect that things will not always work in a smooth, straight predictable line and that is ok. As much suffering and pain we experience in life, it is also full of goodness, meaning and beauty. Who we are is enough. If it truly does not matter, let it slide.
Write down 5 activities in life you truly enjoy and make you feel alive and wonderful. Next write down 5 quirks about yourself. Things that people seem to know you for. Things that make you, YOU! Repeat them out loud and love them!