The Beauty of Imperfection

My name is Bethany, and I am a recovering perfectionist.

The pursuit of perfection was a way of life for me, for years.  However, I refused to call myself a “perfectionist,” because the things I did were not perfect.  So I must not be trying hard enough, to be an actual perfectionist.

That’s right.  I thought I wasn’t perfect enough to be a perfectionist.  That’s how bad I was.

I’ve talked about perfectionism here and here.  But I’m going to talk about it again, because life has brought up this issue over and over again, lately.

What did perfectionism do for me?

1.  It kept me from taking more chances with my writing, such as publishing a book.  It also kept me from starting this blog, sooner.

2.  It kept me from reaching out and meeting other people, because I needed to be “good enough” first.

3.  It kept me in a job and home situation I was unhappy with, because I needed to complete an arbitrary set of steps–perfectly–before I would allow myself to leave.

4. It kept me from having people over, because my house didn’t look “good enough.”

5.  Perfectionism kept me from losing weight, because it made the stakes so high.  My body became a visible reminder that I wasn’t good enough.  And if I didn’t follow the diet perfectly, then forget it.  One extra slice of bread turned into a day filled with candy bars and chips.

Here’s the thing:  People who pretend to be perfect are boring.  “Imperfection” is what allows us to grow.  And growing and changing is what makes life interesting.  You could even argue that it’s what makes life worthwhile, and even what makes us human.

Think about it.  What if I had started out writing this blog, already in the place where I wanted to be?  What if I had it all together, was completely fearless, and already lived on a boat in Texas or wherever?  Would that be as interesting?  I’m guessing not.  I’m guessing that you’re here to see the journey.

In letting go of perfectionism, and accepting our imperfections as opportunities to learn and grow, we allow ourselves the journey.  We should take that journey, and push ourselves to grow, change, and improve.  Such a journey is based on love–love for who we are, love for humanity (by embracing the common experience of growth and change, and seeing the potential in ourselves as well as everyone else), and love for the world that we are trying to improve.

Perfectionism, on the other hand, is based on fear.  We’re afraid of being judged by others, so we try to make it so that nobody can judge us (yet we judge ourselves horribly in the process).  We’re afraid to move forward, so we convince ourselves that we are not very worthy of doing so.

Perfectionism is mental clutter, and it’s time to throw it in the dumpster.

Trash Dumpster Black Clip Art

24 thoughts on “The Beauty of Imperfection

  1. That’s great Bethany, like that! we are as we are and if we do want to change anything we can, but are no longer driven by ridiculous standards!

  2. What a great line about perfection being boring. Right on, Bethany! How sterile and hard perfect is. How cold and devoid of passion. How unattainable and fictional it is in any and all of its forms no matter how badly we want it to be so. It exists not. Swell post!!

  3. Oh Bethany, this post is making me get all teary-eyed. I too am a recovering perfectionist. Like any other “ic” or “ist” it is not something that entirely goes away. It lurks and I find I have to beat it back from time to time. In my private tutoring business, I found that the less I strive for perfection, the better I am. When you’re sitting right next to a struggling reader, it is a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect. We just have to try. We just have to move forward – however that looks for each of us, but just keep moving forward. Beautiful writing. Thank you.

  4. We must be twins. I was taught to do everything perfectly. Since some things like school came easily it set up a pattern for me. When I couldn’t do something perfectly I quit rather than face the criticism. Now I love taking chances and have accepted I won’t ever be perfect so why not just have fun.

  5. This really hit home with me Bethany. I have to struggle against my inner perfectionist daily. If I can’t do something right, I immediately feel the urge to throw up my hands and shout, “why do it at all?!” I’ve gotten a lot better at not being so hard on myself the past several years. It’s still an uphill battle somedays though.

  6. Great post. I noticed that as I get older it is easier to be less perfectionistic, thankfully. All that experience screwing things up without things coming crashing down, I guess!

  7. I totally agree that perfectionism is based on fear. Although, perfectionism is not something I suffer from. In terms of getting things done, attention span is the main issue for me that has held me back. If I latch onto something with my hyper-focus, I become awesome at it, but if I don’t, then nothing much happens and I move on.

  8. Hi Bethany!
    I was searching on your blog for that post you wrote about all the lessons you learned in your 35 years (was it 35? Maybe that was the problem–I have the number wrong!), but instead I found this one. Great advice! I included it in my “Joyful Reads for the Weekend: the ‘Lessons Learned’ Edition.” The link to it is here: http://www.joyfullygreen.com/2014/03/joyful-reads-for-the-weekend-vol-20-lessons-learned.html.
    Thanks for the wise words!
    Joy

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