I vividly remember being in the first grade, and at the end of the year, I won my first award for accumulating the highest GPA in the class. That was when I took my first hit of perfectionism, and it felt good, almost euphoric. For the next seven years of grammar school, I chased that high and made that little, square, marble trophy my goal. Somewhere along the line, my self-worth became entangled in that useless trinket.
It started with my grades, craving the A because the A wasn’t good enough. Then, it spread to my looks, my athletic abilities, my personality, etc., and I started living in polarities (good vs. bad, fat vs. thin, nice vs. mean, and ugly vs. beautiful). When my environment began mirroring them back to me, I assumed they must be true, and my identity became wrapped up in how “good” I could be at everything. “You’re so smart, sweet, and pretty,” I would hear over and over again, and all I could think was that I wasn’t smart, sweet, or pretty ENOUGH.
The quest for perfection is an endless journey many of us have been on since childhood. We somehow think our mistakes or shortcomings are failures or make us less than rather than viewing them as lessons to be learned unique to us an individuals. I was a self-proclaimed perfectionist, and it originated from a message I received purely from society (in no way did my family make me feel this way) that I interpreted as meaning I was only valuable if I was perfect – pretty, intelligent, sociable, and successful. If I received any grade but an A in school, I considered it an F and beat myself up over my perceived “failure.” Then, I started to develop anxiety around EVERYTHING because the idea of not being up to par shook me to my core. I knew nothing but achievement, but what if one day it stopped? Then, who would I be? I feared failure, but most of all, I feared that I would never be “enough.”
Perfection is really just a way of asserting control over areas of life where we feel we have the power to do so. Often, we equate love with perfection causing us to chase impossibly high standards to feel valued and accepted. It is a diversion to fill an empty void that really originates in the spirit with outside experiences. Perfection becomes tied to self-worth, and a shameful belief of inner inadequacy fuels the perfectionist tendencies. Perfection was my drug, and I self-medicated with it so that I did not have to feel. Now, I find my worth in the fact that I simply am and that worth is not contingent upon my achievements. It is strong and never fluctuates because I am and always will be a divine creation.
Below are four benefits to being imperfect.
1. Less Stress – Ditching the “shoulds” and all-or-nothing thinking will allow you to find more peace and enjoy your daily accomplishments and successes while you learn from your mistakes and less than perfect outcomes.
2. Improved Relationships – When you can accept your limitations and imperfections, you give others the permission to be imperfect, as well. As your expectations and impossible standards for yourself lessen, so do those you held for the people in your life. Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world, so when we begin to value ourselves regardless of what we do or achieve in any area, we then begin to value others for who they are and not what they do.
3. Increased Energy – When all of your energy is no longer concentrated on worrying about what you SHOULD be doing and how you SHOULD be doing it, you free yourself up to focus on what really matters.
4. Healthier Self-Image – Accepting and appreciating our imperfections creates room for self-nurturing, compassion, and love. You can begin to appreciate the qualities, characteristics, and experiences that are unique to you without the need to be perfect.