Happiness Is the Key to Attracting Everything

The Perfection Paradox

on November 27, 2011

I love talking about perfection because I have lived through both the agony and the ecstasy of being a perfectionist.

I’ve already shared that I grew up in an alcoholic home, filled with uncertainty and a lot of emotional pain. What my little soul did to compensate for the pain, was strive very hard to always make straight A’s and do exceptionally well at academic studies and school projects. I discovered early that I could impress my parents and teachers by excelling at things.

The good news is that I became really good at a lot things, including all of the subjects taught in school and extracurricular activities as well. My favorite subject of all time was Show and Tell. I can remember doing things for show and tell that blew the minds of my fellow students and teachers. Once I remember being a little girl and telling my teacher that I was going to make a cardboard box television set to demonstrate the story of Thanksgiving. She told me that she thought it was a very bad idea and thought I should think of something else. What she didn’t realize was that I had a plan that I knew would impress the heck out of her. Sure enough, I used my drawing talents to draw scene after scene of the story of how the pilgrims and the local natives came together for Thanksgiving feast after harvesting the food that the natives had taught the pilgrims to grow. I drew the scenes on a long roll of newsprint paper and used rollers that I made to fit the cardboard TV, to scroll through the scenes. Needless to say, my teacher and fellow students were beside themselves with compliments for my project and I got the coveted A+ I was after.

Impressing people and making good grades became my reason. It became my what, my why and my how. I remember writing a poem called Storybook Land in first grade after a field trip to a park for children called Storybook Land. We were assigned to write a poem about our experience. I had never composed a poem before, and it was honestly one of the most fun things I ever did. I was happy with my product, but had no idea how much attention and notoriety I would get. The principal came in along with other teachers and by the fuss they made over my poem, you would have thought I had won the Nobel Peace Prize or something.

You would think at first blush that all of this was very good and that this striving little soul was creating healthy experiences for herself. In many ways that was true, but the self-esteem that I got from producing and impressing people, masked the pain and suffering I experienced at home.

I became literally addicted to the feelings I experienced and the attention I got when I produced over-the-top projects and aced every exam. I lived for the feeling I got from impressing others. Then I started doing something very unhealthy. I became dissatisfied with my own best efforts. Every time I accomplished a goal that should have brought a lot of self-satisfaction, I raised the bar on myself. I started judging myself very harshly if other people weren’t as impressed as I wanted them to be or as they had been in the past. I felt like a failure all the time because I wanted to impress people and I expected and demanded better than my best.

The important point to remember here, because this is true for many people out there, not just me, is that if you place your self-worth in the hands and opinions of others, you will make yourself miserable. You simply cannot please and impress everyone all the time. And if you put your self-acceptance always out of your reach because you have unrealistic expectations of yourself (perfectionism), you will never accept yourself. I’ve come to love the saying that you have to accept yourself exactly as you are, right here and now, before you can change and improve for the better.

Perfection. It is great to strive for it. And it is always great to aim for the stars. If you aim low, you are never going to fly high. But if you aim for the stars but don’t reach them, it’s okay. You tried—you did your best. And that’s okay.

I’ll leave you with a little poem I wrote called:

Perfectly Imperfect

It’s perfectly perfect to be imperfect,
In fact that is all we can be.
‘Cause being imperfect and knowing I am,
Is the powerful truth that set me free.

Up until then I constantly struggled
To be something I could not be.
I tried to be better than my best allowed
So I couldn’t accept being me.

Now I just love being happy
And I still do the best that I can
But I do not have to succeed every time
Perfection’s no longer the plan.

Now I am frolicking under a Power
Who’s force is far greater than mine.
I get to enjoy being human
Imperfection is perfectly fine.


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