Perfection – the prisoner of your soul!
Don’t try for perfection – it costs you too much — joy, fun, humor, growth, learning, freedom, love and loving relationships.
“He that will have a perfect brother must resign himself to remain brotherless.” Italian proverb
I’m no stranger to trying to be “perfect.” I had to learn to say, “It’s good enough.”
So it’s not surprising that I have a lot of clients who have jobs that require they NOT make mistakes – architects, builders, developers, accountants, sales people – because in those professions the consequences for mistakes are costly.
But how does that apply to the personal side of life? Trying to be perfect is exhausting, and makes people withdraw – run actually. And guess what, the minute you try to be “perfect” around someone, you’ll make a mistake.
Ever notice when you’re trying to be poised and polished around a handsome man or a beautiful woman, that’s when you’ll spill the glass of wine, or trip? We’ve all done it. And it’s only a mistake if you’re trying to be perfect.
If you are just being yourself – human, vulnerable, full of emotions, fears, challenges; dealing with family, career, financial or health issues; full of love, hope and expectations – you’re going to make mistakes.
The good news is you usually learn from your mistakes. If you get cranky with someone because they weren’t perfect, they will probably withdraw and you will need to apologize. No big deal – you just have to clean up a mess you made.
Let’s face it you are going to have good days and bad days. You are going to unintentionally say the wrong thing to someone, accidentally cut someone off, misunderstand what someone said to you and be too tired to ask for clarification.
And it’s how you go about cleaning up the mess that makes the difference. And if a mistake costs you a relationship, then is that a relationship you really wanted to be in? Can you imagine a lifetime of being afraid to make a mistake? Abused women live like this everyday, as long as they stay with the abuser.
The need to be perfect usually comes from trying to please a critical parent, teacher, older sibling, lover or spouse. Those people were probably raised by perfectionists. They think you need to be perfect – and if you’re not, they think it’s a negative reflection on them. They will attempt and often succeed in shaming you. And once you accept that shame, you are trapped in the pain and rigidity of the perfectionist model. Rebel and throw off that shame. Don’t let anyone give you something you can’t benefit from. It’s their issue, don’t make it yours.
Think about trying to be perfect all the time. In the perfection model – there isn’t any room for creativity, growth, learning or forgiveness. And you better not make a mistake! You better do it right! And fun – forget about fun! Perfection brings with it tension, constriction, anger, withdrawal and rebellion. And the killer of so many relationships – no space for forgiveness.
Not being perfect, doesn’t mean you don’t strive for excellence.
In the excellence model there is room for creativity, growth, learning, freedom, mistakes, forgiveness and fun! There is heart in this model. You’re striving to do your best – to excel at something. It stretches you beyond where you thought you could go. And if you make a mistake – oh well, try again.
Have you ever watched a dancer dancing perfectly? They look good, but something’s missing. They aren’t feeling the music; they aren’t having a good time. They are trying to be perfect and it shows.
The best example I remember occurred in the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer where Nancy Kerrigan and Oksana Baiul competed for the Gold Medal. Nancy’s performance was technically perfect, but it lacked heart and tenderness.
When Oksana skated, a 16-year-old girl, who had lost everything except her faith, she skated beyond perfection – with heart, soul, love and beauty. It still brings tears to my eyes to remember her flawless, heart-felt performance.
Nancy Kerrigan was outraged and couldn’t believe she had lost the gold. She was perfect. But that was the problem. She was technically perfect, but she didn’t bring and share her heart and soul with the audience. Oksana brought her heart and soul and gave it to the audience and won the gold.
Your heart and soul is already perfect, only your mind thinks your behavior needs to be perfect. If you choose to “do your best” expressing from your heart and soul, then the other person can feel your love, compassion, truth, openness, and they are more likely to lovingly respond and trust you. And since they are “imperfect” they will feel safer and more courageous with you.
If you live from your mind, trying to be perfect, you have a rigidity to you, a vibe that says I’m not soft and loving. And nothing turns a man off more than being with a woman who isn’t soft and loving. And nothing turns a woman off more than being criticized for not being perfect.
Your spirit will be squelched in the perfection model. You won’t be able to breathe, create or fly. You’ll be caged and stuck in a prison of perfection -alone, or worse, with another perfectionist!
So the choice is yours. Think about how it feels to try to be perfect. Feel where your body and heart constrict, then choose to let that go and be yourself. Let your perfect heart and soul lead you in life. Let your spirit fly free. Do your best.
One of the greatest dancers of all time, Martha Graham, noted:“You will see, when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.”
Don’t let your soul be imprisoned by your minds insistence on perfection. Tell your mind to be quiet, feel the music, move and love! The gold is yours – given to you, by you, just for being the perfectly imperfect you.
imagine the possibilities…
© Carol Chanel
Q & A
This week’s question came from Tom, an architect in Portland. His question was, how to not carry over perfection requirements from work to his personal life. I answered the question in the article since it was so “perfect” for the topic.
Thanks, Tom for your great question. I know you will look forward to letting your heart and spirit soar! When you leave work, say to yourself – “Great work today doing everything as perfectly as possible for my clients. I now let that go and give myself permission to be creative, to play, to laugh, to have fun, and to be free to make mistakes.” Have fun Tom!
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I teach people to overcome the obstacles that keep them stuck yet longing for romantic relationships, more self-confidence and inspiration to accomplish their dreams.
We sometimes forget what it feels like to live from our hearts and souls. We forget the thrill of taking the brakes off and flying. Life is dull if we just live from our minds.
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