I tried so hard to do almost everything in a perfect way when I was young. Perfectionism once dominated my life.
It is a strange thing, perfectionism. By its name it implies that a person so inclined would be looking for things to be perfect. In fact, for most people, it is just the opposite – the focus is on the negative, on all that needs to be corrected. Doing things in a perfect manner is wonderful if you work as an auditor, an editor or in quality control, but when you apply it to life you can create huge obstacles.
I had created an image of myself that was difficult to maintain. The talents I did have and worked so hard to hone did have their merit but I could not leave well enough alone. I had to keep finding fault. It was a path that led to failure after failure.
There are many people who set high goals for themselves and work hard to achieve them. They do not seek to be perfect but strive to be continually better. Progress is their goal. Shouldn’t we all be on this path in wanting to achieve a better life?
The ego-driven people who lived the way I used to should be called “imperfectionists” as that is what they search for. They strain compulsively and unremittingly towards impossible goals all in the vain effort to prove something.
Why do people act this way? They do so because of low self-esteem. They do it because they are afraid others will not respect them for who they are. They try too hard to prove themselves to others. Little do they realize that those they are trying to impress are usually not paying attention.
In their perpetual demonstration of knowledge and skills, they seek confirmation of their worthiness. They have programmed themselves to believe that the approval of others is the Holy Grail they seek.
Throughout my years of intense struggle, I either hid from the world or pretended I was someone else, someone I wished I could be. All I really wanted was to be accepted, to be loved, to be told, “Hey, Haddy, you’re okay.”
It took a long time to comprehend what the cartoon character Popeye the Sailor had been telling me all that time. “I am what I am!” That’s it. I do not have to prove myself to anyone. I do not have to pretend I am someone else or to better than anyone. I do not have to base my life on the approval of others. Those things are all to do with my ego. I can just be me with all my issues to work on and my strong points to make them happen.
I am unique. There has never been another person just like me so let others discover me just as I am. The same goes for you. Marvel at who you are. Be grateful and accept yourself for what you have become and where you have the opportunity to go. Accept your perceived imperfections as you focus on progress.
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”
― Brené Brown,
The preceding post about self-esteem is from September 7, 2014.