“If what we want to do is heal ourselves first, so that then we can go in search of our dreams, we will never reach paradise. If, on the other hand, we accept all that is wrong about us – and despite it, believe that we are deserving of a happy life – then we will have thrown open an immense window that will allow Love to enter”. /Coelho/
Yesterday I had a business call with a colleague in our New York office. I do not remember the full conversation, but we talked about perfectionism vs. good enough. This topic has been on my “to-do-list” for ages – as a perfectionist no surprise there –, so almost a year after my last blog post let me share my thoughts with you.
First of all, tell me what perfectionism means to you? How do you see it? How do you feel about it?
For me perfectionism is like carrying a heavy backpack and chasing a mirage getting more and more exhausted. How do I know it? I was chasing that mirage for years and years… And trust me! That backpack just became tougher and heavier to carry, so I decided to release it. It was enough and I needed change.
Since my early childhood, I desperately endeavoured to become perfect and reach perfection in each and every area of my life. In my relationships, in school, in my work and in every activity I have done (or have not done). Perfectionism for me comes with making ZERO mistakes. Do you see now why I told that straining for perfectionism is like chasing a mirage, something unreachable?
Writing this blog post I have been thinking about all those missed opportunities:
How many times I escaped from conversations and situations because I was paralysed by my fear that I am not perfect enough?
How many times I did not start an activity, sport or course, because I was scared to “be caught by somebody” not knowing or doing something in the right way?
How many times my mind was blurred by the “what-if-I-make-the-wrong-choice-or-decision?” question until I found myself in the labyrinth of my mind seeing only the obstacles around.
Trying to find the way out, it did not help that I saw all the mistakes my parents, relatives and friends around me made and finally living through my parents’ divorce, I magnified mistakes to the level of disaster. I just wanted to run away from them… Far, far away!
Naïvely I believed that if I am perfect, that will never happen to me, nobody will reject me, nobody will pick on me and the world will love me. Yes, the whole world and yes, I believed that as naively as a child can.
As a result of chasing the mirage of perfectionism:
I set very high – sometimes unachievable – standards … that led to disappointments.
I had super high expectations towards myself and others … and got easily frustrated when they did not want to live up to those standards and then I became sad when those people stepped out of my life.
I rather worked by myself instead of teams … so many times I felt isolated and overwhelmed.
I left no room for error … so I got stuck in analysis paralysis, delaying stepping forward or make a decision.
And…to hide my imperfection, I hardly opened up my arms and reached out to ask for help … so I did not feel connected.
Also I did not want to let anybody down, so
I did not stop.
I did not rest.
I did not say no.
I did not ask what I really wanted.
And I did not put myself first.
Chasing perfectionism – that you can never reach – and pretending you are what you are not, drains soooo much energy. Why? Because you are working so hard to pretend… Pretend that everything is always and forever PERFECT!
Looking back, now I understand more why I felt mentally and physically exhausted after taking care of kids in California. If you have ever been around kids, you know that perfectionism is your enemy and you can throw it out of the window. You plan and they decide and it is a never-ending story. That time I did not pause to check-in what was going on in me and I just wanted to live up to my own standards. I did not know myself as much as I do today and I got an amazing lesson to learn from it (and to blog aboutJ).
Only a couple years ago, when I embarked on the journey of self-exploration and I dug further and further in myself, I realised that our life is like a never ending, inwards learning spiral and there will always be new things to discover, to fix or to work on. I sadly had to admit to myself that I will never ever be perfect even if I live another 200 years. Although I felt like a little kid whose favourite toy was taken, finally I paused and reflected.
Since then, I have been working on to be “Good enough”. A good enough employee, a good enough girlfriend, a good enough daughter, sister, but most importantly to live up to my good enough standards.
Now it is your turn!
List 3 things you can do today to feel that you are good enough!
Let go of all the should-s, do-s and must-s and take at least 5 min for yourself!
And breath! YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH!