Let’s Allow Ourselves to Be Imperfect – Perfectionism Is An Enemy to the Creative

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“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life…. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Perfectionism Is Rooted in Fear

I have written several posts about the fear that prevents artists and writers from moving forward and getting their work done–from just doing it. That fear is the ugly stepchild of Perfectionism, which I believe is the scourge of life. Anne Lamott sums up the problems of perfectionism beautifully. In the above quote, she was talking about how perfectionism ties the writer in knots, fills him with fear and prevents him from writing.

“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” ― Michael Law

I believe that perfectionism raises its ugly head in everything that we do, and it encourages us to toss things and people away who do not measure up to some ethereal ideal.

In her book The Gifts of Imperfection,  Brené Brown offers us some golden nougats about perfectionism. The title of the book echoes the Asian philosophy that brokenness and that its scars do not have to be ugly.

Perfectionists Are Control Freaks

The first challenge in monitoring perfectionism is letting go of the need to control. Things in life do crack or they get scratched or the dog gets old and wets on them. It is absolutely impossible to control everything all of the time. We need to learn to at least accept the fact that things will get cracked. We cannot prevent that from happening. We are merely left with the challenge of how we will perceive the cracked thing and what we will do with it afterwards.

Perfectionism Is Driven by Shame

I know people who are driven by the need to be perfect. In fact, for a long time, I was also plagued with that disease. In my own experience, the need for perfection is also driven by shame.

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Because the Perfectionist works so darned hard to fool everyone around himself that he truly is perfect, he or she often seems to be perfect. He or she will do everything within his or her power to look good. He or she will often be successful in his or her work. He or she will seem to have it all. But because no one can ever have it all–at least not all the time–the perfectionist’s cup is never filled. He or she will always want more, but the race to be perfect is run on a slippery slope. For starters, no one knows exactly what perfection is. Ellen Hopkins shines a beacon on that problem below:

PERFECT
by Ellen Hopkins

WHY

push to attain an ideal state of being that no two random people will agree is

WHERE

you want to be? Faultless. Finished. Incomparable. People can never be these, and anyway,

WHEN

did creating a flawless facade become a more vital goal than learning to love the person

WHO

lives inside your skin? The outside belongs to others. Only you should decide for you –

WHAT

is perfect.”

Wanting to succeed is not a bad thing, but too much of anything becomes toxic.

“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 Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Perfectionists Are in Denial

After years of wearing masks and striving to become someone that they are not, perfectionists often forget who they actually are. The perfectionist’s denial often begins because he WANTS to forget who he is and ultimately, Voila! He isn’t who he is. He becomes something that is totally manufactured or plastic or fake. The real problem with this situation is that because the perfectionist is a shell who modeled himself after another shell, he or she isn’t who he isn’t either.

Perfectionists Tend to Become Narcissists

Perfectionists Cannot Tolerate Process–
They Demand a Finished and Perfect Product & That Allows No Room for Creativity–Which Is Always in Process.

“Perfectionism doesn’t believe in practice shots. It doesn’t believe in improvement. Perfectionism has never heard that anything worth doing is worth doing badly–and that if we allow ourselves to do something badly we might in time become quite good at it. Perfectionism measures our beginner’s work against the finished work of masters. Perfectionism thrives on comparison and competition. It doesn’t know how to say, “Good try,” or “Job well done.” The critic does not believe in creative glee–or any glee at all, for that matter. No, perfectionism is a serious matter.”
― Julia Cameron, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance

Let’s return to the cracked piece of pottery. A perfectionist would throw the cracked piece of pottery away, but in Japan, they fill the cracks with gold and marvel at the beauty of its scars.

Let’s Allow Ourselves to Be Imperfect. Let’s Give Ourselves a Chance,

And as we continue to create, in spite of our imperfections, we will learn to see the magic that often only occurs when we are free. And as that occurs, we learn to love our beautifully imperfect selves.

By participating in m program Harvest Your Past, a person can learn to appreciate the simple, usually imperfect things that we write via stream of consciousness, quick spurts, and simple observations. Harvest Your Pasts is geared toward writing daily, but it is not geared toward polished writing daily, It is geared toward simplified and honest statements. The daily writings may or may not be polished later, but the work for Harvest Your Path does not strive for Perfection.

 

 

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