Downfalls of Perfectionism

Discovery park Tera  

For as long as I can remember I've been labeled a perfectionist. My mom would always recount a 5th grade spelling test as an example. My goal was to get 100% on every one. Well, I missed a word on one of those tests, breaking my perfect streak. After school I got into the car in a terrible mood, angry and near tears. When my mom asked what was wrong I told her my goal and how now it's ruined. I failed. I had never shared this goal of perfect spelling tests with her before and she or my dad had never put this pressure on me. I did it to myself. I wasn't the kind if kid you had to 'stay on top of.' There was this need to be perfect in me without any parental prodding. 

I can't remember ever just not caring. Believing mediocre or getting by was acceptable. That mentality has never made any sense to me. Although by even saying that in some way that means in my mind I have made anything less than perfect 'mediocre' which is just not true.


Being a perfectionist is something I believed a pretty positive attribute. Yeah it does hold me back from things at times, but hey it's only because I strive for greatness in whatever I do. No substandard jobs here. No failing allowed.


Whether it's in school, activities, play, relationships, work....I don't want to do it unless I can do it perfectly.


As I grow older I have come to realize this part of me may not actually be very beneficial.


We are not perfect. That is not reality. How does one become great without trying, practicing and even maybe failing?


I am constantly holding back, not even trying because of this perfectionism.  I build up fear and anxiety over doing things that I could fail at or seen as 'less' in the eyes of others.


There it is. In some way I think perfectionism is a need or desire of acceptance, held at a high standard, admired. Even though it is self-inflicted in some way it comes down to how others look at us. I've never thought of it this way and would have for many years argued with anyone who suggested anything like this.


But the opposite of perfect is imperfect and imperfect creates a vulnerability. Vulnerability can show our flaws, flaws are imperfect. It's this cycle. Being vulnerable is scary, and it means we can get hurt. I think the people with the most perfectionism are the most afraid of being hurt.


Perfectionism is like an armor. Yes that may in some ways protect, but it also disables our mobility. This heavy armor could in the end be our downfall.


In yoga I'm constantly telling my students to not be upset if their pose doesn't look like someone else's, or like those pictures on Instagram. Those people have practiced to get to that place in their pose, they have different bodies...we should never expect to just jump right into the full depth of a pose. It's a process of continuous practice, with slow improvements. When people tell me, 'oh I can't do yoga I'm not flexible' I tell them that doing yoga is not about being flexible, but that you may gain flexibility by doing yoga.


I should really listen to myself shouldn't I?


I preach to others to accept themselves where they are at, to not expect perfection. And I truly mean it. I do not expect perfection from my students at all, if they were perfect why would I even be there as an instructor? I accept there imperfections lovingly and without judgement.


For some damn reason I cannot seem to accept this in myself.


I expect more from myself than I do from anyone else.


Now during my 27th year I am fully aware that this desire, need and requirement of being perfect is inhibiting me from creating a life I love, a career I want and from reaching out and connecting with people.


So how do I break this habit? How do I get rid of this part of myself? This part of my being that has been there since I was able to form thoughts, expectations and memories?


I don't know really. I guess it is recognizing and acknowledging it when it shows itself, then not letting it control me. Moving forward and allowing the feelings of vulnerability and fear.


Sounds absolutely terrible. But then doing nothing for fear of failure doesn't really sound like a life worth living either.


Maybe this is why I enjoy travel so much. It's where I have learned to loosen my grasp on my perfectionism. I have to let go of control, and by doing that I have felt amazing joy and abundance. Full disclosure: I have felt fear, anger, frustration, and betrayal too. But when it's good, it's so good I wouldn't trade it for anything. The positives so outweigh the negatives that the bad parts quickly fall to the back of my memories.  They sit there waiting to be called upon but not without a haze of happiness over them.


Our culture often praises perfectionism, rewards it. Making it seem like this good thing. In the end though it hold us back. Holds us back from being great, from feeling complete and utter accomplishment and joy. You can't experience these things without risk of not being perfect.


Accepting our imperfections does not mean we do not care if we fail.  It simply means trying anyway, and then trying again. Striving for improvement, to learn something with each attempt.


I am not perfect. You are not perfect. WE ARE NOT PERFECT.