It’s one of the greatest things that robs us of our happiness: forever trying to grasp for perfection. Our constant grappling with questions of whether we are enough – strong enough, pretty enough, smart enough, good enough – leaves us with a constant feeling of seeking, never relaxing into our being, like we’re constantly scratching on the closed door of our most sacred self.
Author Anne Lamott describes perfectionism as ‘the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.’
When we’re chasing perfectionism, a quality that can only ever elude us, we can never be whole, always cramping ourselves as Lamott says, squeezing and shape shifting until we finally, finally feel like we fit. The problem is, we never do, so long as we deny ourselves our truest self.
If you’ve wondered why you can’t ever relax, or be happy with what you have, then you know you’re in the perfectionist zone. The promotion you worked hard for, the children you longed for, the fitness you finally gained, the number of awards or recognition, the amount of charity work you dedicate yourself too: you never have a sense of arriving or of it being enough, because you’re always still striving for the next thing, the one that will finally be the bandage for the scab you have been forever picking at that won’t heal.
Our perfectionist selves live in fear of never being enough, of failing, of being seen as less than you know you are. When we live in fear though, our choices and actions are misguided. We spend our time ravaging around in our heads instead of leading and living from our hearts. We focus on external achievements rather than intrinsic meaning and satisfaction. We burn ourselves out with our striving, instead of loving ourselves with self care. We can choose to let go of our perfectionist beliefs and behaviors, to stop running and seeking approval, and to soften into what we need to finally arrive home to ourselves.
For now, simply start to notice where you are being a perfectionist, and when you do, gently breathe yourself into the present moment, feel into your body and breath, and repeat to yourself today’s mantra. And remember what Jane Fonda shares after a life long battle with perfectionism: The challenge is not to be perfect…it’s to be whole.