Sunday, September 9, 2012

About NOT Being Perfect

Perfect, perfection, perfectionist ... to some these are just words, but to others, like myself, they're much more than that ... they describe how we see ourselves and how we approach life.  What does it mean to be perfect?  The dictionary defines perfect as "having no faults; without defect; exact; impeccable."  Can anyone be perfect?  Of course not - there is no person (other than God) or thing that is perfect.  So why do some of us continue to strive for perfection, something that in reality is an impossible illusion like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?  We know it's not really there, but we like to think about it and maybe even pretend that it actually exists.

For some people, myself included, perfection is a form of protection.  If I work hard enough I won't fail at anything.  If I constantly strive to make things better life won't be so difficult.  If I always aim for perfection I won't have to admit that I'm vulnerable to life's problems and disappointments. But the truth is life is full of difficulty and disappointment, failure is a part of life, and we all have flaws and weaknesses.  "When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure" (Peter Marshall).  It takes courage to accept these things though, and we have to be honest with ourselves in admitting that realistically there's only so much we can do.

My family and friends have always laughed at me and teased me about wanting everything to be perfect.  They've even accused me of having some obsessive compulsive disorder tendencies.  It's never bothered me because I know it's all been said in fun.  The truth is though most of the things they have said are true.  I'm never satisfied with anything because I always believe it could/should be better.  I can't relax until I feel everything has been done perfectly.  I don't cope well with change and sometimes come across as being rigid and inflexible.  I often anticipate problems and try to solve them before they even occur.  No matter what I do I never feel it's good enough.  I am a perfectionist - a person who is not content with anything that is not perfect.

Striving to be better is not a bad thing.  "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" (Vince Lombardi).  The problem comes when the quest for perfection becomes an obsession.  Trying to achieve perfection is exhausting - it's a waste of time and energy.  Constantly reaching for an unattainable goal can leave us feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, and dissatisfied.   Putting too much pressure on ourselves can cause stress and anxiety and actually limit our successes in life.  We may even miss out on other things in life while trying to be perfect. 

Instead of trying to be perfect, we should all just try to do our best.  We need to recognize when something is good enough and stop pressuring ourselves to always do more.  We have to realize we can actually gain freedom when we give up our desire to be perfect.  "The thing that is really hard and really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself" (Anna Quindlen).  Perfectionists need to know that it's okay NOT to be perfect.

"I looked in the mirror and realized I'm me ... every little crack, every chip, every dent, every little mistake.  I tried so hard to be perfect, but I'm me - and that's good enough." -Unknown

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