For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with perfectionism. More often than not, it's difficult for me to put an idea out into the world, whether it be a piece of writing or a design with FIFTN16, because I'm concerned that it isn't good enough OR that people will see me as a fraud (the things we tell ourselves, ehh?).
The root of most all of my concerns stems from issues with vulnerability -- I've been much more worried about what others think rather than being connected to my own joy. I've been concerned that if I'm not seen as "ideal" or "perfect" to other people, they will leave or abandon me.
Perfectionism, though, blocks vulnerability entirely - and for many years, has kept me from being my most honest and authentic self. It's kept me from feeling accomplished, fulfilled, joyful and loved. I'm constantly measuring everything I do against a standard that is not only unrealistic, but created from a place of shame or guilt (HA! you got more than you bargained for today.... #sheeeesh).
So how does one actually fix the problems with perfectionism? I understand the idea of radical self acceptance as the cure, but how do you actually do that (in practical terms)? And what are the problems with perfectionism? And what can I actually consider is "good enough?"
I ask a lot of questions #clearly. I like to refer to myself as "naturally inquisitive" (see what I did there?!)-- SO I've explored some ideas and want to share them with you.
Perfectionism is About Other People
Perfectionism is about other people. As much as we think it is about ourselves, it's really others-focused. It considers how we appear to other people, or what would make other people happy. It doesn't meet us where we are (now), it creates unrealistic expectations that we'll never meet. It continually asks the question, "What will others think about me?" rather than "What do I think about myself?"
Perfectionism Causes Shame and Guilt
Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity and vulnerability and creates the perfect breading ground for shame and guilt. Every time I've tried to render the perfect design, perfect presentation, or even do my make-up perfectly... I become so incredibly anxious that I can no longer continue whatever it is that I'm doing. I have to stop because not only get frustrated, but feel that I'm not good enough for the universe.
The feeling of shame and guilt often don't stop after I've stopped working, either. The feeling may be triggered by the initial event (working on a design, etc), but then continues on to totally unrelated things... and before you know it, I feel bad about every single move I've made.
Perfectionism is Dangerous
Perfectionism is dangerous because it's an unrealistic measure. Unrealistic measures cause us to continually not meet the standard(s), ultimately leading us to feel isolated from ourselves and others. And isolation is incredibly dangerous for our health.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Teresa Seeman, people who are less connected to others and their environment are more likely to have real-life health concerns (functioning and longevity). Furthermore, The American Heart Journal published a study in 2006 (Relationship of Depression, Anxiety, and Social Isolation to Chronic Heart Failure Outpatient Mortality) that suggests that depression and social isolation predicted mortality rates independent of demographic or clinical status (within the study).
Collectively, perfectionism can cause isolation -- and isolation is dangerous for our health and mental heath.
Good Enough is Good Enough
Good enough is healthy and real.
Good enough honors our limits, our boundaries, our energy, our time, and our reality. It's loving and gentle and does not cause shame, guilt or isolation. It allows us to continue to be vulnerable and honest but most importantly, creates an environment where we can more easily separate our choices from our person-hood (a key factor in breaking the cycle of perfectionism).
Good enough keeps us connected to ourselves because it allows us to be vulnerable without judgment. It allows us to be connected to others because people relate to imperfections and connect more deeply through moments of struggle (the imperfect scenarios of life).
Good enough is the key to learning how to accept yourself as you are, ultimately allowing you to steer your life in the direction that you want to go. Good enough permits choice where perfectionism demands a set standard (usually dictated by someone else) and keeps you from feeling free.
If we are able to figure out what is "good enough" for us, we're able to live a guilt-free life and are able to start enjoying small moments. Besides, we have to learn how to enjoy and appreciate the small things before we're able to enjoy the big things... and I don't know about you, but I'm ready to enjoy both.
I've had to think pretty hard about what is "good enough" for me because I hadn't really considered it before. Here's some things in my life that are 100% good enough:
Sending an encouraging text message to my best friends that takes 3 minutes to write is better than the hour-long phone call that doesn't happen.
Working out for 30-45 minutes after work (sometimes even at 9 PM) is better than the 2-hour morning workout that doesn't happen.
The $10 thoughtful gift is better than the perfect $500 surprise party that never happens.
Waking up 5 minutes early in the mornings to make my bed is better than setting a 6 am alarm for "me time" that never gets used.
Expressing your feelings at the time I'm feeling them is better than waiting for the "ideal" time, or "right scenario" that doesn't exist (no time is the "right time").
Taking one step towards my goal today is better than waiting for the time to be able to take all the steps in one day... something that never happens.
Can you pick up what I'm putting down?
So what is good enough? Good enough is better than perfect.
LOVE YOU, MEAN IT