Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman
Perfection is different from a commitment to self- improvement.
“I know, I know” .…I would say out loud or in my head. For years I tried to address this. I knew only on a level that was cerebral; but I did not really KNOW, Knowing a truth inside out reflects in your behavior. That fact alone brings me to my knees as a person, as a parent, as someone who lives in this world and strives to collaborate with others in a synergistic way. How humbling is it to acknowledge that your actions and daily choices are a reflective mirror of what you “know”.
I think deep down for years I truly believed I was flawed. I mean yes, of course we all are. But flawed as in my dreams and goals were somehow not realistic.No matter how hard I worked, how deeply committed I was, it was never going to be enough. As in, “Who are you to want for yourself a creative life doing work you love and a family that is whole and well?” A life that meets your financial or emotional needs? I mean that would simply just be too Disney-like to be real.
Imperfections and vulnerabilities that I viewed as weaknesses, even isms would override my efforts in endeavors that were really important to me.I was successful on a certain level, but many of the joyful moments I could have after an accomplishment felt hollow and empty. They really did not mean anything to me once I accomplished my mission. I was addicted to the striving, the work ethic, the perfecting process.
I could not seem to shake the effects of this deep belief until somewhat recently. I just couldn’t see where I was getting stuck. I was stuck in a fundamental belief that if I acted a certain way, moved a certain way, looked a certain way I would be loved and more importantly belong. To belong is one of the most crucial needs in our social emotional health. I mean, its an essential.
Can you see how dangerous this belief is? And I have experienced privilege financially,been loved in a family, been given every possible opportunity to study the work that delights me and share that enthusiasm and joy with others. But. there it is. I bought into this belief hook life and sinker when I was around 14-15 years old.
It has had various facets that we can explore later, for example the effects of this belief on your body image and worth come with a variety of behavioral consequences.
This blog is not to be about me but to serve as a expression of how epidemic this way of thinking is. Many people believe that if they act a certain way, look a certain way, obtain a certain level of success professionally, it will keep them from feeling embarrassed, ashamed, afraid, or worried. I write about this now because it has come across my plate so much in teaching that I simply desire to open the conversation and shed a little light on people who seem to never be satisfied, people who seem to have an un seen motor that drives them to work, perfect and hone their craft. People who are really sensitive about feedback, people who seem to need more attention and are emotional, people who seem to not function in attention and hide their talents in a group. It goes on and on and on.
This conversation is about acknowledging the dark side of perfectionism- not the commitment to self improvement or the joy of learning.
I hear clients/students really concerned with “are they doing ok?” Yes– I have these concerns too when I am a student in a subject. But I am learning to let that way of thinking not rule my whole experience.There is technique and tools of a craft but then there is what you can use it for- the creation of a beautiful glittering jewel for your day. Motion can be an expression of JOY – Love- Life- even release of Pain. When its intention is to mentally punish or “perfect” the body because of all the things it does wrong; that is not the path to health, its the path along to confusion and dis-ease.
Confession, my first thought is that “ I am not great at this yet.” But, I am starting to address it.The ripples of my old beliefs can be found in my thoughts, my children, and in my behaviors. I am real.I am a work- in progress. I will work hard to accept when “It is Good Enough.” I will practice compassion and gratitude to keep the dark side of perfectionism away and allow the beauty, the upside of working hard to shine through.