My first experience with rejecting perfectionism was when I was in my doctoral program. I was working full-time and going to school, so I adopted the motto, "Sometimes done is good enough." At the time it all felt a little like cheating. Aren't we supposed to always do our best? But I knew that if I tried to do everything perfect, I'd never finish. I credit my ability to put aside perfectionism with my successful completion of my degree. We always are told to do our best, but sometimes doing our overall best means setting priorities and giving each thing only the time and energy it really deserves.
Perfectionism...is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It's that simple. Perfection is not about healthy striving or being our best, it's how we protect ourselves. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.
I find myself struggling with perfectionism most when I'm feeling unsure of myself. If I have a big event one day, I will find myself trying on and rejecting half a dozen outfits, making a complete mess of my room and a bigger mess of my head. Logically, I know that my choice of shoes is not going to have much of an effect of how the department meeting goes. Perfectionism is pretty illogical, though, if you think about it.
I think the flip side of this might also be a problem. Maybe the book gets to this later, I'm only about halfway through. But I wondered if some of us might have a literal "twenty-pound shield" instead of a figurative one. Those pesky extra pounds can be such a convenient protection from the "Who Do You Think You Are" Police. Except that they're not, really.
Perfectionism is just one of the topics in this very enlightening book. I like it even better than I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn't). The new book focuses more on the art of living a "wholehearted" life, one that is authentic and imperfect and happy. It's really a very practical look at the things that stand in the way of living a happier, more authentic life. I wholeheartedly recommend it (pun intended).