Friend, Jannette, said to me, “Thank you to Les and you for staying married for soooooo many years. So many people are looking for the perfect partner. They end up separating and starting all over again or with no-one.” WOW! What a lovely compliment. Looking for perfection is a waste of time. Even more fruitless, is trying to act or be perfect; that is striving to be a perfectionist. What an imperfect goal.
I really don’t like any form of name calling but sometimes it helps people to relate to a label such as perfectionist. A problem names is often half solved.
Perfect essentially means beyond as good as it can be. Synonyms include faultless and best. Perfect is not possible regardless of the number of perfectionist seeking that status. The most exquisite Persian carpets have flaws in them and if not, they are sometimes deliberately woven in. Otherwise, those carpets could be cookie-cut from a machine and have a unique design.
The person who insists on perfectionism must be wary, or obsessive-compulsive disorder may kick in. Also, aiming to be a perfectionism weakens our ability to be resilient; to bounce back, to feel comfortable with ambiguity, and to feel grateful for what is.
5 Ways to Stop Being a Perfectionist
- From other people, STOP! Then notice what you expect them to do for you. Then pick up your feet and fill your own longing. Realize that unless you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, you are in charge of how your life works. When I was forty years old, I complained that my hubby was not creating excitement in our love life. I turned the finger pointing to asking myself how I could bring excitement to our marriage. Soon after I picked him at the airport in eye-candy.
- From yourself, develop some self-compassion. Recognize where the insistent message to Be Perfect originated. Where you given childhood messages, that you could seldom do good enough such as an A report card needed to be an A+? Have you been striving to be the Perfect Parent, rather than a Good-Enough Parent? Vulnerability and self-compassion can be developed and they can free us from the anxiety of reaching the impossible summit of perfection.
- From others and yourself, start developing a practice of gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal, daily tell others what you appreciate about them, and acknowledge your own small and large accomplishments. Celebrate whenever and whatever possible!
- Look for possibilities and potentials. There is more to discover, to learn, to do and to love. Think of expanding and deepening rather than reaching for perfect. Discover your strengths and find ways to use them with meaningful satisfaction.
- Use the biggest anti-dote for perfectionism–playfulness. Creativity and playfulness are dampened by aiming for perfect outcomes. Goof around with rug hooking. Spend time with children. Join them in messy exploration. Sing, dance and scribble (how do you scribble perfectly?) just for the joy of it.
Never-good-enough is a heavy and strained state to be in. Enjoy moving from perfectionism to possibility, play, and positivity.
How have you reframed from becoming a perfectionist and stopped expecting perfection from yourself and from others?