We pretty much all know that little beast. Perfectionism comes in so many convoluted colors, and wears the oddest array of masks. And you don’t get too far along in this life before recognizing the negative effects that pursuing it brings.
Got that t-shirt, no?
12-Step Programs are great at pointing this out J
And we do get better as we go along. Okay, so the house doesn’t have to look perfect when people come over (gave that one up a while back!).
The soufflé doesn’t have to puff perfectly (now see—this just reared its head! I’ve never even tried a soufflé. Perhaps I’m scared it’ll crash?).
The story doesn’t have to have every single word in the perfect place (um . . . can we talk about this one a little more?).
The point being, I’m not sure we ever entirely give up the desire for things to be perfect. I mean, wouldn’t it be cool if they were? Then life would be easy and we’d avoid the pitfalls and all would just glow with divine radiance.
That’s a big nemesis of Paula Anne Fairbanks in I Just Came here to Dance. Raised in a less-than-perfect world, now married to a less-than-faithful husband, she vows to raise the oh-so-perfect child. And in so doing, put all the pieces of her existence into an order where all is perfect in heaven.
Life of course crashes down around her. And finally she sees that nothing would ever be perfect, and even she had to admit it. That’s when her life takes off in a different and unforeseen direction. And the path opens up to her destiny.
The holding to perfection just keeps you boxed.
In the very grasping of it, we fall into worse pitfalls than the ones we were trying to avoid in the first place. In part because we can’t see what’s in front of us, instead imagining the fears walking our way to mar the icing on that beautifully faultless layer cake. And that intense focus causes us to miss entirely the divine radiance already all a-glow.
Recently I’ve been dissecting angry feelings over folks not dealing with an issue in the right way. Now, in my defense, it’s a huge issue—literally life and death. If ever I had justification for every single thing to be done the absolutely perfect way, this was it.
And they opted instead for door number 2.
The intensity of my anger shocked the hell out of me.
So of course, I had to let go—this wasn’t my call. I did all I possibly could to show them the wisdom of doing it my way (with all the science to back me up). Time to pull out that old Serenity prayer . . .
But as I worked through all the forceful feelings, I realized a piece of perfectionism still lay at my core. In short, what was hiding under a jagged rock was that I expected them to be perfect.
And I realized that’s something I hadn’t really considered before—the requiring perfectionism from others. Another little demon to deal with and then hopefully let go . . .
We’re all human. Flawed. Conflicted. We work at healing those things as we travel on this path, knowing how that frees us.
And when we truly get it, how it frees those around us as well . . .
As Mythologist Joseph Campbell said:
“Perfection is inhuman. Human beings are not perfect. What evolves our love—and I mean love, not lust—is the imperfection of the human being.”
I wish for you the most perfect day, in all its beautiful flaws.