“Perfection has one grave defect: it is apt to be dull.” –William Somerset Maugham
Perfectionism, some wear it like a badge of honor but in many ways it’s highly overrated. Passion and excellence are character building and make for a better world. They come from a place of internal striving. On the other hand, perfectionism tends to be externally focused and is about trying to gain approval and acceptance. Perfectionism doesn’t allow for mistakes and can feed off of a feeling of not being good enough.
Perfectionism visits in a number of ways. It can hold us back from taking healthy risks because it’s uncomfortable living in the unknown. Perfectionism can also make us sensitive to criticism or suggestions, which can stifle our growth. It can rob us of intimacy because it equates to a refusal to be seen imperfectly. Another way of breaking down intimacy is “Into-Me-You-See!” When we put veils of perfection over our imperfectly good self, we lose the spicier aspects of our being. Isn’t our spice what makes us so interesting?
Perfectionism tends to emphasize the end product rather than the journey. Think of our school system, which is designed on grades and performance. Often times we miss out on the thrill of learning by exchanging it for the thrill of performing. When we allow our performance to solely dictate our identities, we become emotionally unstable. Research consistently shows that perfectionism correlates with depression, anxiety, addiction and is strongly connected to eating disorders.
So how do we tame the inner perfectionist that lives within us?
Here are a few tips:
- Practice accepting imperfection in yourself and in others. Think of when you’ve lost a person or a pet. More often than not, it’s their quirks that we reminisce about and miss the most. Remember your quirky imperfections are lovable.
- Invite feedback. If the prospect of criticism terrifies you, ask your partner or someone you trust to give you constructive feedback regularly so you can get used to hearing it without feeling judged.
- Journal about your perfectionism and the messages it sends. Through writing you will see how and when your perfectionism emerges. This will help you to stop it in its track sooner. You can also objectively review the perfectionist messages and investigate their validity. For example, “Is it true that if this guy rejects me, no one will date me?”
- Wear dramatically different colored socks when you go to Smiths. Be silly. At first it may feel strange, but over time, you will develop this silly muscle and wear it like a badge of honor.
As Thanksgiving approaches and you fastidiously work at dinner preparations remember, it’s not the dish that makes the Holiday; it’s the people and feelings of abundance that surrounds your table.
Elizabeth Grant is available for a consult at 505.660.5796.