The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting, but as hard as we try, we can't turn off the tapes that fill our heads with messages like "Never good enough" and "What will people think?"
Why, when we know that there's no such thing as perfect, do most of us spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to be everything to everyone? Is it that we really admire perfection? No -- the truth is that we are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect.
We get sucked into perfection for one very simple reason: We believe perfection will protect us. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.
We all need to feel worthy of love and belonging, and our worthiness is on the line when we feel like we are never ___ enough (you can fill in the blank: thin, beautiful, smart, extraordinary, talented, popular, promoted, admired, accomplished).
Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it's a shield. Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it's the thing that's really preventing us from being seen and taking flight.
Living in a society that floods us with unattainable expectations around every topic imaginable, putting down the perfection shield is scary. Finding the courage, compassion and connection to move from "What will people think?" to "I am enough," is not easy. But however afraid we are of change, the question that we must ultimately answer is this:
What's the greater risk? Letting go of what people think -- or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?
Brene Brown is a researcher and story teller, most famous for her Ted Talk on vulnerability.
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you relate to the notion that the quest for perfection is exhausting? Can you share a personal story of a time you let go of what other people thought of you? What helps you be authentic to yourself over other's opinions of you?
As a "recovering overachiever" who spent much of her life feeling not good enough, this post touched me deeply. Now 50, life is more about the smaller connections, the deep value of one to one rather than the urgent feeling of "I must make a huge impact" or seeking approval. For years I've danced to my own drummer (rather than march, I choose dance ;) ) and haven't cared what others thought of me in certain contexts. I've never really fit it, I'm more like a misfit toy ( from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) than I am some Barbie doll of perfection. For example, I use bubbles at the World Bank as a way to calm nerves, difuse tension and connect on a more human levecl. I've done it since day one when I brought bubbles to the interview panel. ;) I still do it 3 years later. Embracing those things which make me unique, like a never-ending sense of childlike wonder, helps me to stay grounded. I was tested on this last week as a Manager at the World Bank did not at all resonate with whom I am or how I do my job. I've consistently been rathed 6.8 out of 7 in countless other trainings. And so I let it go, this person sees the world through grey lens, me through pink and yellow and that is OK. I know who I am and like each of us I've been given gifts to share. The only way I know how to share them is by being me with my Pink bangs, my brightly colored clothes, yes, mostly pink these days and my "slight exuberance" as I move through each experience. As someone once said, "be yourself, everyone else is taken" :)[Hide Full Comment]
My tears stemmed from a "Faith and Works" conversation with my son and his girlfriend. "There is soooo much more work to do!" ... left me feeling depleted! At this time in my life, I cannot do more than I am already doing! Thank you Dianne! So kind of youð·!
I am so glad I saw this. Perfectionism is exhausting and it takes away so much energy that should be used to just be happy and content with who we are. I can identify with Amy also. If only she could know that she is the best already.
Yesterday evening, I broke down in tears of fatigue ... "I am tired" I cried to my husband! TRYING to be the best wife ... Best mom ... Best grand mom... Best dog owner ... Best daughter ... Best daughter in law ... Best niece ... Best neighbor ... Best friend leads one down the road of unrealistic expectations and ultimately loss of self. Trying to be everything for everyone is NOT healthy!
The Holy Spirit comes to my aid again and again, faithfully, helping me to true to myself in Him (trumping other's opinions of me). Amen
The quest for perfection is exhausting because it's unnecessary goal-directed hard work. Perfection has much more to do with allowing rather than seeking. I haven't completely let go of what others think of me, but I have loosened my grip. I have gotten positive feedback when I say what is true for me rather than hold back or be inauthentic out of concern about what they might think. It helps me to remind myself that I have the right and responsibility to be me and express my truth. It helps me to have felt more regret when I don't express my authentic self than when I do. It helps me to get support and appreciation for what I have to say. I like to be known, and it helps me to know that in being authentic I become known.
I was blessed to learn from my parents that contentment and doing the best you can according to your capacity is the key to feeling happy and making progress.The other precious lesson they taught me is listen to you inner voice and follow the right path. We learn such precious lessons by not what they say but by what they do.. They provided role modeling by their actions. They were authentic and humble, not all -knowing.
In my teaching adolescent students and counseling their parents being obsessed with the perfection syndrome. They are driven by being perfect giving no room and acceptance for being human, making mistakes, accepting them and learning from our own mistakes.They want to appear best and strong and perfect in the eyes of others. It sure makes them unhappy and miserable. I help them by sharing my mistakes with them and learning from my mistakes. We do not need to forget that we all are human beings like others prone to making mistakes, learning from our mistakes, getting help from others when we fall down,getting up and moving on. The acceptance of being who we are makes us connected with others who are just like us, Self worth, worth coming from within, is what makes us feel rich, beautiful, contented and happy.
Jagdish P Dave