Author Anne Lamott describes perfection as “the voice of the oppressor. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” This may sound intense but there is truth in the sentiment. The goal of any oppressor is to consistently feed a belief in the oppressed that they are ‘less than’. But what if that oppressor is you? That is exactly what happens when perfectionism sneaks into our lives. The pursuit of perfection becomes the root of everything that we perceive as wrong, creating an unfortunate paradox. Perfection simply is impossible, and all of its roads lead only to self-sabotage.
Let’s take a closer look, though. Striving for perfection is something we have all done in certain areas of our lives. Oh to be the perfect mother, perfect wife, have the perfect relationship, the perfect kids, the perfect job… You may even be wondering “what’s so wrong with wanting to be perfect?”
Often, in our fear of appearing less than perfect, we don’t realize that we aren’t even putting our all into what we’re trying to achieve. Imagine a child that is learning to ride a bike for the first time. If they are focused on being graceful, not making a mistake or wiping out, they might not ever learn at all. If you have ever observed a child learning something new you can see that looking perfect is the farthest thing from their mind. Their focus is rather on doing well or mastering the task at hand.
Often, in our fear of appearing less than perfect, we don’t realize that we aren’t even putting our all into what we’re trying to achieve.
Of all the problems we could have, reaching for perfection doesn’t seem that bad. We want to actualize our lives to the best of our ability and having measured goals is one way we do that. However, there is a difference between having goals and seeking perfection, though it can be tricky to differentiate between the two.
One common symptom of perfection is, ironically, procrastination. Yes, we have all experienced putting off that one project or task, especially when it seems tedious. However, for the perfectionist, it isn’t the tedious tasks that get put off – it is the ones that are the most important. A perfectionist – and I have found myself in this place – will put off the projects most dear to them out of a fear of not doing them successfully. For me, the more important something was to me, the more fear I felt around it. Putting it off meant not failing, but it also robbed me of any success or joy. When I realized this, I never procrastinated again and had to face my inner perfectionist, which meant facing the fears that drove my need to be perfect.
However, for the perfectionist, it isn’t the tedious tasks that get put off – it is the ones that are the most important. A perfectionist – and I have found myself in this place – will put off the projects most dear to them out of a fear of not doing them successfully.
Like many things that trip us up, perfectionism comes from a positive place. It speaks to our desires and for so many of us, those desires are similar: to be happy, to feel fulfilled, to find acceptance, to love and have that love returned. These are all beautiful, worthwhile things to want but one of the problems keeping us from living them is our tendency to look outward. Perfectionism keeps you comparing yourself to others and requiring outside validation, neither of which will ever bring any long-lasting happiness or fulfillment – the two things we actually want.
Kabbalah teaches that every situation in life has an internal and an external aspect and the two are almost never the same. The external aspect is life. It is everything you see, everything you can touch, the interactions you have. It is our physical world. When we are dealing in perfection, this outward expression seems to hold all of our dreams and success. Then we have the internal aspect, which is the connection that we all have to the Light of the Creator. It is within that connection that we find our true selves, our highest potential, our inherent perfection. When we are aligned with this energy, we have certainty beyond logic that we are going to be alright, we trust our process despite anything negative we are experiencing outwardly. Instead of seeking outside for perfection and validation, we look to our inner voice and let it guide us, releasing any need to “control” the outcome.
When we realize that we are already perfect, any impulse to search for it is instantly gone. When we are in touch with our inner self, our higher self, we are able to share this already fulfilled, successful, and loved expression with the world. It will transform our relationships, our paths, and our entire lives for the better. We find that all of the things we were searching for outside, were inside all along.
Thought to Action
What area of your life do you find yourself striving for perfection? What projects or tasks are you putting off out of fear of not doing them perfectly?