“Perfectionism is the rejection of life” – Marion Woodman
I find myself quoting this powerful truth bomb from Marion Woodman all of the time. Honestly, I should just wear it on a t-shirt.
And it’s no surprise. We are in a society that pedals the promise of perfection all day long. It’s what the advertising industry hooks us in on: the promise of the perfect life, perfect career, perfect relationship, perfect home, perfect body…perfection is always just one product away.
And that obsession and belief in perfection has got deep into the bones of our collective psyche and it is causing us SO MUCH DAMAGE.
When you are in the grips of perfectionism nothing is good enough. You are not good enough, they are not good enough, the world is not good enough.
And while perfectionism will have you believe that good enough IS possible and if you/they/the world would just sort it’s act out, perfection would be possible, here is the truth of it:
PERFECTION DOES NOT EXIST.
You will never get there. It is a fool’s errand to go after perfection. Because it will keep you in a perpetual state of never satisfied, always lacking, always striving, never enough.
Perfectionism is the rejection of life.
When perfectionism is at play, it poisons relationships, pushes people away, burns you out and guarantees unhappiness.
It will hold you, those you love, your life, the world, up to an impossible standard that no-one and nothing can ever measure up to. It is a prison of comparison where nothing will ever be good enough.
At work perfectionism will have you make impossible demands of yourself and others. It fuels toxic productivity and burnout. It throws people into a state of panic and urgency as they work desperately to avoid being the failure and disappointment that perfectionism threatens that they will be.
In relationships perfectionism stops us from seeing the human before us and demands that this person in our lives be the perfect partner, friend, colleague, child. Anything less and perfectionism will let it be known that they have been a disappointment to us. We get angry at their imperfections, try to change them, control them and find subtle (or not so subtle) ways to let them know that they need to do…be…better.
When perfectionism is at play in relationships, love cannot thrive. Because with perfectionism there is no acceptance. And without acceptance there is no room for love to flow.
When you’re caught in a dance with someone who is demanding perfection of you, you will never feel good enough, always on edge, that at any minute you will do something wrong, disappoint them, be rejected. Because inevitably you will.
Because no-one can ever pass the impossibly high test that perfectionism sets us all.
So, when perfectionism sits on your shoulder and judges you, you will never feel good enough. Perfectionism will follow you around, with a measuring stick that compares everything about you to it’s perfectionist ideals and you will fall short in every single way.
And when it takes a look at your life, perfectionism is never satisfied. The grass over there will always seem greener. You will find yourself forever changing and buying things to see if that will fix the sense of dissatisfaction. But it never will. You’ll find yourself either blaming yourself for not having the perfect life or deeply entrenched in victimhood and the unfairness of it all.
Perfectionism is the rejection of life.
When perfectionism is in town, there is no room for love, peace, happiness, joy and beauty.
Because love, peace, happiness, joy and beauty can only be found when we shake off the belief in perfection and, not only accept the imperfections found in life, ourselves and the world around us, but embrace them and see the gifts in those imperfections.
And it isn’t easy.
None of us are immune to perfectionism and some of us have had it looming over us like a shadow most of our lives.
But you CAN set yourself free from the clutches of perfectionism.
And you must.
Because when you do, life will become so much lighter, more enjoyable, more peaceful.
So how do you do it?
The key is to shine a light on your own perfectionism…here is an exercise to help you to do it.
Take a piece of paper and a pen and answer the following journalling questions:
- What are the areas where perfectionism is at play in your life at the moment or most often? Eg friendships
- How does it make you feel when you are expecting perfection in that area of your life? Eg resentful, frustrated, jealous
- How does it make you behave? Eg. I’m critical, never satisfied, always comparing, bitching about them in my head, complaining about them for not being how I want them to be
- If the perfectionist within you could paint a picture of the perfect life you should be living – where you should be in your career, what your home should look like, what you should look like, what your partner should be like, what your friends and family should be like etc…what picture of perfection would it paint? Describe it all in as much detail as you can. Don’t judge what comes out on the page, it needs to come out.
Take a breath.
It doesn’t make you a bad person for having these thoughts, longings or judgements. We are all products of our society. We’ve been raised to believe that perfectionism is the goal. This isn’t who you are. This is perfectionism at play in your life. Keep going (promise you’ll feel much better shortly)
- When you let go of this need for perfection and accept yourself, your life, your home, your friends, family, colleagues, the world JUST AS THEY ARE, in all their imperfection…what opens up for you? Eg when I let go of my friends having to be perfect and accept them JUST AS THEY ARE in all their imperfection, I suddenly see how they are doing their best, I see them in their vulnerability, their own struggles in their life – I see them as the beautiful imperfect humans that they are
- Going forward, how do you want to show up differently in that area of your life? What would change if you were to show up in full acceptance and gratitude?
When we shine a light on our perfectionism we strip it of it’s power. Don’t seek to fight your perfectionism, it always needs our acceptance. Seek to understand it, to know it, to see how it plays out, ACCEPT IT and then choose another way. Choose acceptance, gratitude and the celebration of imperfection – because THAT is where life is found.