“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is…the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough…” Julia Cameron
I was getting ready to graduate college and I recall sitting with a career counselor who was prepping me for future interviews. I remember being told that I had to be able to articulate 1-2 weaknesses about myself – but it would be best if the weaknesses have the potential to be somewhat positive. So rather than saying something like, “I swear a lot,” I should instead say: “I can be somewhat of a perfectionist.”
Maybe that’s where I picked it up. Maybe that’s where I got this idea that “perfectionism” is a good thing. Maybe that’s where the madness began.
That has played out through nearly my entire adult life as I attempted over the years to have it all together, all the time. I thought I was supposed to have the perfect life, the perfect job, the perfect marriage, enough money in the bank, the perfect home and the perfect relationships……and if I didn’t, I needed to at least look like I did. I thought I was supposed to have 25 things on my to-do list each day that was impossible to achieve.
Somewhere along the way, we got this idea that perfectionism is a badge of honor and something that should be admired and even celebrated.
But since no one is actually perfect (sorry…) – that means we will always somehow fall short and that we’re setting ourselves up for a daily death march. It means that more often than not, we lay our heads down on our pillows at night thinking less of ourselves or thinking that we’re not enough in some way:
- We should have been better.
- We should have tried harder.
- We should have just simply gotten up earlier so that we could get more done (6 hours of rest is overrated, after all).
- We should make a date night with our spouse and stick to it.
- We shouldn’t have been late for my child’s soccer game or the parent-teacher conference.
- I should have worked out.
We have done this to ourselves and it is madness.
Now I know that asking you to put down your “Bar of Perfection” is asking a lot. I’m not even going to ask you to lower it a bit.
There is one small thing you can do to let go of perfectionism: simply notice it.
- When you’ve somehow fallen short, notice it.
- When you’ve been busy all day, but nothing on your to-do list can be crossed off, notice it.
- When you feel guilty about something you should have or could have done but didn’t, notice it.
By simply noticing the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves, we have begun to let go of perfectionism and taken our first step toward freedom.