I call myself a recovering perfectionist because perfectionism can be an addiction. We all know that perfection isn’t a permanent state of existence but many of us seem to strive for it anyway. In my life, I have been able to experience many perfect moments, most of them have been for a short period of time and then they fade away. Attempting to be a perfectionist is exhausting, it hurts relationships, and we don’t get to enjoy life.
I believe that my desire for perfection was passed on to my children. A few days ago, my son was upset and bent out shape because after he had worked so hard to power wash his pool deck and the stone looked perfectly white, his 9-year-old son and a neighborhood friend walked on it with muddy shoes after playing in the marsh. He had also shown me very proudly his rose bushes and how they were coming back beautifully this Spring. That same day that his perfectly clean patio had muddy footprints, his 6-year-old daughter and her friend had dropped a large ball in the middle of one of his rose bushes leaving a big hole in the center. As I was hearing the story, I could empathize with him. I always wanted the perfect moment to last and to stay that way forever, but it never does. Learning to be at peace with life’s challenges, moment by moment, can bring more peace and joy into our lives.
As a therapist and life coach I have wondered what leads people to strive for perfection. One source may be related to our birth order. Older children tend to assume more of this perfectionistic trait. I am the second oldest of 5 children and growing up I felt it was my duty to help run our household when our mother was working hard to support her 5 children. I don’t recall my mother imposing specific responsibilities because I was the oldest daughter. I took it upon myself to do it and to do it well. Another reason that pushes us toward perfectionism may be related to our struggle with a feeling of not being good enough and we believe that if we do more and/or better, we will be appreciated, loved, and accepted. However, our true sense of self doesn’t come from the outside world but from within us. Perfectionism is trying to meet some ideal narrative that you (or society) have previously created in your mind. I am beginning to focus more on striving for excellence versus trying to be perfect.
Mindfulness can be a wonderful tool for those who are a recovering perfectionist or would like to become one. Mindfulness invites us to be present in the moment with whatever is happening during that specific moment. We can practice mindful awareness of the need to strive for perfection, our thoughts that drive that behaviors, and grants you permission to explore the option of letting go, trusting and surrendering. Mindfulness allows us to rewrite those “perfect” narratives and invites compassion and kindness towards ourselves and others, and we can more easily release the stress of having to be more and do more.
Mindfulness asks you to prioritize the moment and not the ideal narrative. When you become mindful, that ideal narrative changes, so that we learn that muddy footprints are perfect in and of itself. Muddy footprints become evidence of friendship discovery and fun.
As Spring unfolds, is the perfect time to embrace cultivating mindfulness awareness, allow it to grow and spread the seeds of love and kindness within yourself and those around you.
Veronica Correa, LCSW-C, is a licensed clinical social worker, certified hypnotherapist and life coach.
To learn more about her work visit: www.thepersonalwellnesscenter.com
or call 410-742-6016