9 Reasons to Let Go of Perfectionism

NYT2009012015594807C1) The only thing that is perfect is what is happening in this moment because it is indisputable.  Applying perfectionist standards to our past experiences is another way to fruitlessly torture ourselves, yet many of us do this on a regular basis.  Thinking we can change anything that has already happened is like thinking we can go back in time and stop the meteor that landed in Arizona from crashing into the desert, leaving behind its wondrous crater.  Lamenting about how things should have been is a waste of time.  The better use of our energy is to utilize the knowledge gained from our experiences to grow and direct our next steps, appreciating the imprint our past experiences have left on our environment and our souls.  one world 2)The type of perfection we are seeking doesn’t exist.  Each individual has his or her own idea of what constitutes perfection.  The word “perfect” is overused and often serves as an excuse to pursue one’s own ideas about what is right while disregarding everyone else’s perspectives.  This is illustrated in the number of religions in the world and the vast array of beliefs that are associated with those religions.  It is also illustrated in the many heinous crimes that have been committed under the guise of seeking perfection for religious and political causes.

3)We are not wired to be perfect.  Even those individuals who have achieved great things by society’s standards have many characteristics that would be considered imperfect by those same standards.  Our so-called negative traits do not diminish our contributions to society.  Einstein contributed much to our understanding of the universe, yet he experienced the same conflicts in his interpersonal relationships as the rest of us.  Mother Theresa demonstrated the ultimate philanthropical spirit of love in God’s name, yet the writings she left behind showed that she had many doubts about the goodness of mankind and the existence of God.  It can take a lifetime of learning to recognize the importance of making mistakes.  What really counts is not allowing our shortcomings to stand in the way of leading a fulfilling life.

4)Perfectionists are no fun.  Some people try hard to conceal their true selves, relying on their outside accomplishments to define themselves.  Their self-worth is derived mainly by their appearances and status.  All of us do this to a certain extent, but it can be taken to extremes.  There is nothing wrong with working hard to bring beauty into the world.   It is when we place more value on our achievements and status than on our fellow human beings that our relationships begin to suffer.   Consider how much delight it gave everyone when the beautiful actress, Jennifer Lawrence, tripped at the Oscars.  It makes us all feel a little better when people are willing to expose their flaws as well.  Let’s embrace our imperfections and have some fun!

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5)Perfectionism is a cage that limits our possibilities.  When we rigidly limit ourselves to a particular outcome, we are not open to the possibility that perhaps something even better exists.  This type of perfectionism can blind us to the opportunities that are in front of us right now.   Maintaining flexibility in our expectations will lead to greater satisfaction than creating standards that are impossible to achieve. 

6) The pursuit of perfection can be a clever disguise for the pursuit of superiority.  It isn’t our fault that we were made to compete with each other in order to survive.  This biologically innate nature drives us to want to be better than those around us.  This desire is rooted in the basic concept of “survival of the fittest” and is necessary to stay alive.  But we do have a choice about how to utilize that drive for the sake of humanity and not just ourselves.  Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable at times can lead to a feeling of connection with those around us.

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7)The pursuit of perfection is an obstacle to our peace of mind.  The perfection we are seeking distracts us from being able to embrace reality.  It is often easier to focus on something we believe will bring us happiness than to appreciate the random, exciting nature of the world in which we live.  If our fundamental underlying belief is that we need to be in control of all situations (and clearly we are not), than we will make ourselves miserable trying to achieve our misguided idea of perfection.  

8)The pursuit of perfection can cause us to make more mistakes.  Studies have shown  that musicians who are perfectionists are more likely to make mistakes than their counterparts who are able to let go of their expectations and relax.  Anyone who has ever been terrified to speak in public, perform on stage, or participate in a big competition understands all too well the fear of not living up to other people’s expectations.  The realization that we don’t have to do things perfectly can be such a freeing experience. 

9)There is a difference between striving to do well and striving for perfection.  Striving to do well is rooted in love, while striving for perfection is rooted in the ego.  If you have ever watched Julia Child preparing one of her famous recipes, you will know what I am talking about.  She loved cooking and did not let it phase her when she made mistakes on air.  There are many reality shows about cooking now, like Hell’s Kitchen, that teach us more about the heartache of not living up to someone’s standards of perfection than about the joys of cooking.  This all or nothing approach is a reflection of a culture that has adopted a perfectionists’ mentality, but that doesn’t mean we have to buy into it.  

Resist the urge to be perfect and start living your life with passion.

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