It’s been a while since my last post. Like, almost a month?
I can make excuses: I’ve been putting down roots in New York City; I’ve been adopting a cat; I’ve been working on my meditation and exercise routines. All of these are true, but the real reason I’ve been procrastinating is that I struggle with perfectionism.
I’ve written scribbles of what will become published pieces, but as the days between posts dragged on, the thought of hitting “Publish” became more and more scary.
Yesterday, I asked myself: “When did I stop focusing on the fun of writing?” And y’all, the answer brought tears of relief to my eyes. I realized I didn’t need to craft the perfect piece, post it at just the right time, or receive a certain number of likes and feedback. I wasn’t missing out on the validation of others, nor was I missing the feeling of adding another post to my belt.
What I was missing, what was really making me sad, was the fun of writing. The joy I feel when I sit here typing it out, is the joy any artist or creative person feels when they are in tune with that special place from which all creativity stems. Whatever you want to call it – flow state, being in the groove, or feeling the presence of God – it’s a high unlike any other.
I’ve been too focused on perfection to enjoy the fun of my art lately. And in realizing this, I came to the conclusion that perfectionism has a tendency to sabotage joy and fun in any area of life where it rears its ugly head.
Perfectionism is, in my opinion, a form of control that hinders rather than helps. There is a difference between the need to be perfect, and simply doing your best. We should all be doing our best, every day. As Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. states in The Four Agreements, our best is different day to day. My best on a day when I get good sleep and eat healthy food, will be different than my best when I’m sick, stressed, or tired. But I can still do my best.
Perfection, on the other hand, is like a carrot on the end of a stick. And we are the donkey, plodding endlessly, and never reaching the goal.
When I look back on the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far, none of them were made perfectly. In fact, seeking the perfect moment is what kept me from choosing my bliss sooner. When I decided to quit my 9-5 job to fulfill my passions, the timing wasn’t perfect. I had to disrupt the lives of the those around me, not to mention my own life, and trust that things would work out. And they did, and here I am.
When I decided to uproot myself from the incredible city of Austin, Texas and move to Manhattan in the middle of a global pandemic, things were far from perfect. Although I had saved enough money to survive for a few months, I had no guarantee of finding work here. I knew if I wanted to follow my heart to the Big Apple, I would have to take a leap of faith and trust that everything would work out. And it did, and here I am.
You’d think that by repeating the pattern of faith, trust, and taking leaps, I would know by now that all I have to do is believe that things will work out, do the best that I can, and go for it.
But perfectionism is an insidious sickness. It hides behind out wildest dreams, it interlaces its thorny grasp around the deepest desires of our hearts. It makes us believe that, in order to get to that which we desire, we must first achieve perfection.
For many of us, perfectionism helped us survive those early years of life on Earth. Whether it was in school, in sports, in our social worlds, or in our family life, perfectionism allowed us to achieve greatness – or at least, enough greatness to survive the trials at hand. At a young age, when we are at our most powerless, the semblance of control that perfectionism provided, was a tonic. We could not control our families, our daily routine, our food, our friends, our housing, nor even our bodies. But we could control some things – and we threw ourselves into the pursuit of perfection in that one area where we could excel.
But things are different now. We are grown. We are free to make our own decisions in life. No one is there to punish, prevent, or put down. Unfortunately, we often take up the role of the punisher, the preventor, and the bully. The perfectionism that helped us survive, does not help us to thrive.
People are human, and humans are not perfect. In fact, our mistakes are what lead us to our greatest adventures and achievements. Even in biology, the mistake – the genetic mutation – is what leads to evolution of a new and stronger creature.
Without mistakes, without imperfection, we are trapped, like petrified wood. We are doomed to never grow, never change, never move. This is not unlike death. To be alive and dead at once, is a terrifying thing. To be breathing, eating, sleeping, but not growing, not changing, not making mistakes, and not taking risks, is a fate worse than death – it is imprisonment, an imprisonment that is self-imposed.
We do not have to be the jailer of our own lives. We can be the savior, the hero, the person who sets us free. In fact, no one else can do it for us.
Neither our dog nor our God expects us to be perfect. So why do we expect it from ourselves, and from each other? Our dog doesn’t care if we accidentally step on his little paw. He forgives and forgets, and looks forward to going for a walk together. He just wants to be with us. Our God doesn’t mind if we tell a lie, say something mean, or forget all about God for a long time. God forgives and forgets, and just looks forward to another day with us.
We can take a hint from dogs and Gods, and begin to enjoy each day with our selves. We can become aware of the thoughts and behaviors of perfectionism, and let them go. We can choose to focus on the fun, the delight, the uninhibited joy of simply being alive to see another beautiful day on planet Earth.
We can free ourselves to make mistakes, to learn, to grow. We can enjoy the process. We can laugh at our mistakes, full of love and compassion, because we are, after all, doing the best we can.
I may struggle against perfectionism for a while, but I can be aware of it and be proud of myself for choosing a happy life. I can be grateful for the freedom to mistakes, and feel joy in the fact that I love myself regardless. I can feel joy in the belief that I love others regardless, too. And I can feel thankful that regardless of the mistakes I make, I deserve love as well.
In the words of Beyonce, “Perfection is so… meh.” Let’s live fully and imperfectly. Because perfection is impossible, and pretending that it is possible, is not very fun.
What if the sunrise tried to be perfect? Wouldn’t it look the same each day? No, the Sun rises in its own way, each day, a different shade of pink and purple. It’s just happy to be with us, and shine on another day.
Does perfectionism affect your life? Have you noticed how striving for perfection helped you survive childhood? What things would you do if you knew you didn’t have to do them perfectly? What areas in your life are free from perfectionism and the need to be perfect? What would your life look like in six months if you did your best, without striving for perfection? Let me know in the comments!
thanks for being here with me,