“Many people think of perfectionism as striving to be your best, but it is not about self-improvement; it’s about earning approval and acceptance.” – Brene Brown
“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough.” – Julia Cameron
I seem to have problems making decisions lately. Even picking a topic for this blog post was difficult. Some of the ideas I had were on subjects I’ve written about recently, like attitude. Or people would know who I meant if I discussed a certain situation. Or . . . .
I couldn’t come up with the perfect topic. However, I’ve made a commitment to write a blog post each month, and this is July 31. I had to tone down my perfectionism and pick a topic that was “good enough.”
In thinking about lessons I’ve learned this month, I realized that word “perfectionism” applies to several of them:
- My close friend Georgia and I were meeting for lunch and a walk along a river close to where I live. I spent well over an hour trying to pick a restaurant and came up with a list of ten. Even I realized that was a little crazy. Couldn’t we just walk around and see what looked good? Or I could have brought three options. Instead, I had to find the Perfect Place, and if I couldn’t do that, I had to provide several great options.
- On Saturday afternoon, I went for a run at a forest preserve. The day was warm and the path was not shaded. I walked as much as I ran. I thought, “What is wrong with me? Can’t I motivate myself to run when I’m alone?” But later, I realized this was a back-to-back run—I had run four miles the day before, and on this day, I walked/ran for 3.3 miles. That was nothing to scoff at. It’s being active. I mentioned this incident to a runner-friend and she said, “You ran on that hot afternoon? Wow, you are motivating.” I was grateful for her perspective.
- My husband and I have been to many concerts this summer, along with a picnic and potlucks. We are making the most of this season. Often, I pack up food to bring to these events. Unless I pick standbys like brownies or fruit salad, I pore over cookbooks deliberating over what to bring. “I’m missing a protein, like chicken. But how do I keep it at the right temperature? And will people like what I bring?” I spend too much time fussing over the food.
And that is the problem with trying to make things perfect. It takes up too much of our time and attention and prevents us from getting things done. Besides, it is stressful. It is better to admit we’re not perfect. We don’t know everything. We make mistakes. And that is OK. It is part of being human.
I hope my reflecting on lessons I’ve learned doesn’t imply that you should be hard on yourself, like I used to be. I’ve always been analytical, and my goal is to learn from my mistakes and to share my lessons learned with you—not to beat myself up. Nowadays, I view my faulty self with more compassion that I used to. I may not be perfect, but I am good enough.
In what ways has perfectionism affected your life? Are you able to view your faults with compassion? What lessons have you learned recently?