Marianne Williamson quotes ‘We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually who are you not to be?’ and rightly so. We should challenge and believe in ourselves, but it is one step too far to ask ourselves to be perfect which many of us can fall into the trap of? Not everyone suffers with the debilitating effects of perfectionism but some of us are more susceptible to it than others, so I wanted to share my experience of dealing with the fine balance of striving to better myself AND letting things go.
Societal expectation to be perfect
We are surrounded by images of how we should look, ideals of what it is to be successful- a car, a big house full of pretty things and self-help that shows us how to be perfectly emotionally in tune or goal orientated. We’re told the best way to bring up children and run our families. We are also taught from a young age that we need certain grades to achieve, we need to be a certain way to fit in, we need to go to university and get a ‘good’ job. How much of this builds an expectation to achieve in every aspect of our lives and be the perfect model of society? While there is nothing inherently wrong with the above pursuits, it is the self-perpetuating need to be a 10 out of 10 at everything that can lead to disappointment, discontentment and disconnectedness.
I have always been a bit of a perfectionist ‘by nature’. I was brought up in a school that prided itself on its students’ high grades and pass rates and have always felt the need to perform well in front of others. I have always got good results but I can honestly say that never made me feel satisfied, it merely gave me a need to achieve the same standard in everything I did. I’m not the only one to feel like this.
While I strive to lead a fulfilling and inspiring life and make changes for the better, there comes a point when I have to ask myself, how much of this is because I need to be perfect and how much is because I really do enjoy making changes. De-cluttering has been something that has added a huge amount of value to my life but at the same time I have found myself asking questions like; what would be the perfect amount of clutter? If I just got rid of this, would that be better?
Once I begin to recognise my perfectionism tendencies I start to wonder how to be ‘perfectly imperfect’, trying to do things that make me imperfect but just for the sake of it and so another spiral begins.
It often feels like there is a fine line between one thing and another, probably a result of my sometimes default black and white thinking but in actuality, there is a definite scale between perfectionism and the opposite of maverick/indifference. A blessing that means while I may want to strive for some things, it doesn’t mean I have to be an absolute perfectionist in everything that I do and that being at the indifference end of the scale in some areas of my life is absolutely fine and in fact very healthy- I just need to let some things go.
I’m no expert but I’m sure perfectionism and control are inextricably linked, the need to control how something comes out or is, but with control thankfully there is always a choice.
Here are some of the things I do to tame the perfectionist in me:
(but remember you don’t have to be perfect and do all of them or any them, do what feels right for you!)
- You can say ‘no’ and learn to say it more often than not. You don’t have to be the perfect friend or colleague. You can be a perfect friend without being perfect.
- Do something that totally stops you from achieving or ‘doing’ something at every waking moment. I like doing logic puzzles or watching a film so my brain switches off now and again.
- Sometimes I go with the ‘f**k it’ approach and see what happens rather than thinking it all through.
- I used to plan a goal to the very last detail and convince myself it wouldn’t work because it wasn’t all in place and perfect. Now I know that I just need to take the next step and follow it with another step.
- Remember that there are no failures, only feedback and lessons to learn so try it anyway and know that whatever you do is ‘just enough’.
- ‘Let it go’ meditations – there are hundreds of guided meditations on Youtube- take 10 mins out every day and refocus on you.
- Find a mantra that works for you, such as ‘I am enough as I am’.
- Don’t let perfectionism stop you moving forward. Trusting in the process and knowing that things will never be perfect can be very calming.