The Pointlessness Of Perfectionism

I’ve never fancied myself a perfectionist. Insecure? Yes. Stubborn? Yep. Anxious? Often. But Perfectionist has never been a name I would have given myself; until recently.

I’ve recognized that I’ve recently had some low level anxiety. I’ve been a bit on edge. This is nothing new for me. I tend to visit this place every few months, watch myself as I sink into its troubled waters, and slowly pull myself back to awareness.

This time, as I’ve been observing myself sit in this familiar place, something occurred to me. This anxiety is coming from my need to be perfect. It’s my attempt at being a perfect mom (this is a big one for me). It’s my attempt at being a perfect wife; my attempts at being the perfect friend; the perfect volunteer at my daughter’s nursery school; the perfect daughter; the perfect sister.

How did I not see this before? And how the hell did this second-born, responsibility-shunning, meditating, chick get here?

I’ve been the peace-keeper my entire life. I’ve been the smoother; the voice of reason; the one making jokes to make everyone laugh. It’s been my way of keeping everyone happy. It’s also been a great excuse for others to see me as having my shit together. It’s allowed me to feel like I’ve had my shit together.

As I was cooking dinner tonight, my daughter kept coming into the kitchen and asking me to read her a story. I could feel my anxiety rising because I didn’t want to disappoint her but I wanted to create this lovely dinner I was preparing. I watched myself alternate between chopping vegetables like Julia Bloody Childs and sitting on the floor and quickly reading to my daughter.

And yet…I wasn’t enjoying ANY of it.

And that’s when it hit me.

This incessant striving to be perfect…to be everywhere at once…to be there for everyone all the time…is a real BUZZ KILL. It sucks the life and the enjoyment out of everything.

So why do we do it? Are we not here to ENJOY our lives? What other reasons could there be for our existence? To become more conscious? That’s going to happen anyway. What is the point of all of this if we’re not having fun and enjoying life?

What is the point of your perfectionism, whatever it is; however it plays out for you? Where is it getting you? Do people love you more? Do you have more friends because you’re perfect? Do your kids love you more; enjoy you more?

Even if you could attain your self-imposed ideas of perfection (because perfectionism is, after all, a completely subjective place according to its perceiver) would it be enough? As a Perfectionist, you would likely just raise the bar and keep raising the bar. And where would that leave you?

Here’s a better idea.

Why don’t we ditch our ideas of what it means to be perfect and instead strive to be happy…fulfilled…at peace. It might mean that your bed is not made that day. It might mean you burn dinner and have to order out. It might be you stick your kid in front of the TV for longer than normal. It might mean you tell your spouse/friend/parent/kid/coworker/sibling, “NO” and do what you want to do instead. It might mean throwing your best laid plans in the ditch and doing something completely different that lights you up rather than keeps things predictable. Perhaps you end up disappointing someone (they’ll get over it) or forgetting something important (the world won’t end).

But what WON’T happen is the following:

You WON’T end up feeling like a seizing ball of anxiety. You WON’T feel desperate. You WON’T feel like you’re disappointing anyone (and if you do, you won’t care). You WON’T step into something you don’t genuinely want to do. You WON’T walk through your day worrying about it. You’ll actually be just living it, moment to moment, in full presence. You WON’T tell yourself that you’re not enough, will never be enough. You WON’T continue to tell yourself that you can’t be human and fuck up and make messes.

I want to be easy on myself. I want to love myself in all of my weirdness, uneasiness, messiness, weakness, strengths, humour, compassion, love and everything. I want to completely lose the yardsticks that I pull out every so often that measure me against anything other than WHO I AM.

I want to be me and I want to be free. And guess what? I am. I always have been. It’s just taking me a while to realize it.

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