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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