Perfectionism is Overrated

Perfectionism is highly overrated. While I describe myself as a “recovering perfectionist,” I must admit to being a total backslider. I used to think that perfectionism was somewhat noble in its drive to excel and to do and be the best I possibly can. I have since learned, however, that I have been operating out of erroneous assumptions about the merits of perfectionism.

Turns out perfectionism is a total ruse. According to Brené Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection, 2010),

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and self-growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.

Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn acceptance and approval.

Ouch. Moreover, she writes, “Where perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking. In fact, shame is the birthplace of perfectionism.” *deep sigh*

So, let’s be honest here. I’m not narcissistic enough to believe that I can actually achieve perfection. The truth is, I usually feel so far from perfect that it’s depressing. Really. For example, when I write I so carefully craft my words, taking into consideration how they might be received by various readers. It’s exhausting. I do not want to be judged. I want you, my readers, to love me and approve of my every word. On the rare occasion that I fire off a quick, unedited email or text, I am immediately hurled into this dreadful space of self-doubt and criticism. What if I didn’t say that right? What if my grammar and punctuation were off? (And, yes, I am that person who punctuates my text messages.) Did that sound stupid or silly or …?

And, my ability to berate myself into an oblivion? Matchless.

I know I am not alone in my perfectionism. I can write about this only because I know that oh so many of you can relate. I know I’m not the only one who feels that wash of shame when I think I’ve said or done something “stupid” or “wrong.” I know I’m not the only one who replays conversations in my head hoping I sounded smart enough or together enough. I know. I am not alone in my perfectionism.

Here’s the catch. No matter how hard I try to be perfect (write perfectly, say perfect things, be perfectly put together), I’m still not perfect. And, there are times when I still feel shame, am still judged, and sometimes rejected. This seems to be the reality of life.

Beyond all of that, the truth is that I AM NOT PERFECT. I don’t feel perfect on the inside, so as Glennon Doyle Melton writes, perhaps it’s time for my “insides and outsides to match somehow.”

Perfectionism does not serve me. The hustle is not rewarding. It’s exhausting. So, it’s time to work on embracing my imperfections. It’s time to acknowledge that I’m ok and enough. It’s time to let go of all those crazy expectations and to believe that my life is beautiful; imperfect though it may be…

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Change is good

Sometimes you just need a little change. It’s a new year – 2016 (can you believe it??) – and I decided this blog needed a little facelift and a new look. I can say that last year did NOT go quite as planned. However, I can also say that in spite of some pretty heartbreaking circumstances, it might have been my best year yet. Last year I made a LOT of changes. I cleared some cobwebs out of my heart, purged all my stuff and freed myself of some excess baggage, downsized my life (and upsized my living), and woke up to what has turned out to be a really good life.

I’m kind of proud of myself. Don’t get me wrong. 2015 wasn’t the easiest year. In fact, most of it was pretty hard, and parts of it were downright brutal. Waking up can be painful. We get cozy tucked in our warm, safe, well-known lives, so when it’s time to wake up to something new, it can be hard. But, as Glennon Doyle Melton so aptly puts it, “We can do hard things.” I just read her book, Carry on, Warrior, in about 6 hours over this past weekend. There were so many things I loved about it. Her honest revelation of an often challenging life had me saying, “Yes! I get that!” One of my favorite lines, though, and the one that will absolutely stick with me was this: “Let go and believe that whatever it is, it will be beautiful (p 263).” Seriously. “Let go and believe that whatever it is, it will be beautiful.”

This might be my mantra for 2016. I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago, because I usually just ended up failing miserably at them, then feeling guilt and remorse for being such a resolution reject. I saw an idea circulating on Facebook wherein people were choosing “their word” for the year. I waited a while for my word to come. When it did, it was so clearly the word I needed. It’s trust. I need to trust myself. Trust my journey. Trust God. Trust my friends. Trust my inner wisdom. Trust my gifts. Trust my training. TRUST. And, I need to let go and believe that whatever it is, it will be beautiful.

I actually think I do believe that. In this moment, anyway, despite the relative lack of beauty in this dreadfully rainy day. Usually the absence of sun puts me in really negative space. But, today my focus is elsewhere. I’ve been practicing gratitude lately, and it makes all the difference. Changing one’s perspective, much like freshening one’s space (even virtual space), can serve us in so many ways. It’s like waking up to a new day with renewed energy and anticipation.

So, bring it on, 2016. This year will be different. I will trust. I will keep being brave and inviting change. I will “Let go and believe that whatever it is, it will be beautiful.

May it be so.