For the past 25 years, I have worked with individuals who firmly believed in the concept of "perfection". I have disputed this belief. I have provided examples to dispel the actuality of being perfect. I have done comparisons as to their expectations and if they'd expect the same from friends (of which they of course said, no, they wouldn't). I cannot recall the number of times I have read, The Velveteen Rabbit and held discussions on what it means "to be real". I have had internal alarms go off in my head when people talk about this great girl who has all AP classes, volunteers her time, has a job, participates in school clubs, and is an athlete. People rave at how great this girl is and I worry and wonder what she is feeling, avoiding, and struggling with.
All the while I have been doing this important work with these fabulous individuals, it took me to leave my job to realize that I, too, have been striving for perfection. I disguised my striving under the guise of “detail oriented” and “setting an example”. Yet, if I am honest, as I look back in hindsight, it was perfection I was going for.
Upon further examination, I have come to realize it wasn’t writer’s block that I experienced when my team and I were writing our book (Self-Injury: Simple Answers to Complex Questions). It was my fear of not having what I wrote be perfect; using the wrong tense, or not clearly stating what I meant. Upon further reflection, I realize that besides being a night person and thinking clearer at night, it also had to do with deadlines. By waiting until I was close a deadline, I didn’t focus as much on making sure everything was right as much as not missing my deadline. Making my deadline and not letting down my team was more important to me than making sure everything was perfect.
Perfectionism does not exist. It always leads to being dissatisfied with the “now” and continually raising the bar. It does not allow for celebrations of accomplishments met because one is already thinking of what the “more” they need to accomplish. Perfection allows one to not be present in the moment and always striving for the unattainable. Perfection prevents one from using their voice because they are afraid they won’t be understood, or they might not be correct, or they will be ridiculed.
For 2018, I am working on letting go of my perfectionistic ways. It is messy. It is uncomfortable. It is driving me up the wall right now that while I am certain there are errors in this blog, I am letting them be as I work on practicing imperfection.
Have you chosen your word for 2018? I believe my word chose me – “Vulnerability”. This year I will be working on being in the moment, being messy, being imperfect, being open, allowing others to see my flaws, asking for help and accepting the help of others.
I’m looking forward to this wild ride…….. Who wishes to join me? Who’s in?
Denise M. Styer, PsyD, GLCC
January 15, 2018