Perfection Makes Me Sad

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One of my own personal challenges, as well as many of my clients is my desire to “get it right.” Get what right?  It could be anything from loading a dishwasher, packing my children’s lunches, to planning a family vacation.  And of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do a good job at something, the challenge is when our definition of “right” narrows our possibility for success.  My husband will lovingly remind me by saying “Rachel…there’s no perfect equation for this situation, stop looking for it.”  We can spend so much time seeking the “perfect solution” to a problem at work, a challenging relationship, challenges we are having with our children or family.  We can also spend too much time trying to perfect our home, our wardrobe, our bodies, ect… The funny thing is, we usually don’t even realize that we are aiming for perfection!

Accountability.  Let’s take some responsibility for our feelings. Often when something is stressing us out, we fail to acknowledge our own role in creating that stress.  We have all heard our friends (or ourselves) complain about planning their weddings or stressing about what to wear to an optional event and thought… “then why are you doing that?” or “why are you going to that event?”  I have been that person.   A couple years ago I worked myself into a tizzy planning an optional party, of which by the time the night came I was exhausted and just wanted it to be over so I could go to bed.  I spent too much time wanting everything to be “just right,” I was unable to enjoy myself.  I also recently wrote about how I stopped folding my children’s clothes. I had this idea that all the clean clothes in my laundry room HAD to be folded and put away in drawers.  I realized if I let go of this goal, I would have much more time on my hands.  Now, my kids get a few outfits a week that I toss in the washer and dryer and if you go into my laundry room you will see two big baskets of kids clothes (one for each).  I remember thinking to myself “what would someone think?!” if they opened my laundry room. So silly, (I know no one would care) but that voice in my head is what actually kept me folding these tiny toddler clothes. Now the only clothes in my house I fold and put away are my own!

Why seeking perfection isn’t helpful?
Seeking perfection is limited because it is fear based.  It also narrows your definition of success, which in turn, narrows your ability to find meaning and or happiness in many situations.  For example, if your workout routine only “counts” if you do a certain, very specific routine, you lose out on the option of having a spontaneous workout with a friend, trying something new, being challenged in a new way.  Same with something simple like cooking a meal. If we only enjoy cooking the meal if it comes out “perfect” we will fail to recognize any enjoyment we might have had in the process of creating it.  Perfection eclipses any possibility of a process-focused activity, and turns it into a results-only focused activity.  These activities are often rigid and unforgiving.

How to know when perfection is getting in your way?
When we try and “perfect,” we tend to overlook the emotional costs of our goal.  Stop and ask yourself… ‘how will it feel to reach my goal in this manner?’  ‘How does this plan feel?’  If we take just a minute and stop and imagine how we might feel carrying out one of our goals from beginning to end, and truly examine the emotional process…we might realize the parts of our plan that are “too much” or unnecessary.

What might you stop trying to perfect?

**If you want help taking ownership of your time, contact me about my time-management workshop.  It’s fun, personal, and will leave you with a calendar you will love.