Creating Your Own Happiness: Avoid the Perfectionist Trap

“I am not looking to escape my darkness, I am learning to love myself there."
- Rune Lazuli

In previous blogs, I have talked about perfectionism as a roadblock to inner peace, fulfilment & joy.  In this era where we are inundated with picture-perfect #everythingisfiltered social media, I think it’s worth a revisit.

When I started examining my own relatively extreme perfectionistic tendencies, I wondered how to go about “fixing” myself.  I looked at my attention to detail, my drive to be good at what I do, even my colour-coordinated closet and uber-organized home.  I wondered if letting go of perfect meant that I had to “let it all go”...

The answer I have come to is no.  I don’t have to make my house messy to prove to myself or anyone else that I am a “reforming” perfectionist.  What I need to work on is how to stop taking things to the “nth” degree.  I need to learn how to see good enough as really good enough, not less-than-perfect.  And I need to disconnect my self-worth from the equation.  I still like to make near-gourmet meals and keep my house neat and tidy (As my kids would tell you, I am fond of the expression ‘clutter of the environment leads to clutter of the mind!’).  However, if the laundry piles up or I opt for frozen lasagna, I don’t see myself as a failure.  Unfortunately, I could give countless examples of how patients and friends have connected the dots in this way — where, consciously or not, they have associated messing up, making a mistake, gaining 10 pounds, or doing something less-than-perfectly with “being” a failure.

Create Your Own Happiness: Avoid Comparisons 

One of the first strategies that helped me to see myself as “good enough” was nixing the comparisons.  Comparing ourselves to others is a fast-track route to unhappiness.  Honestly, if we look, we will always find someone who is smarter, more successful, more attractive.  Whenever I find myself thinking that I don’t measure up, I stop and take a breath.  I tell myself that absolutely no one is perfect and spend some time considering a more realistic perspective.  

As I discussed in “Ending the Comparison Game”, it also behooves us to remember that everything is filtered, especially when it comes to social media.  And I repeat: People post the pick of the litter — the photo they want you to see, with a message that contains the info they want you to read.  Is this wrong?  Of course not.  It’s what we all do.  But we need to remember that it’s what we all do.

Everyone has a side unseen and their own hardship to bear.  We can never know the full depth of anyone else’s life experience.  Instead, we are viewing well-edited highlight reels through our own often distorted lens.

Human Connection: Let’s Empower Each Other

I don’t claim to have this all figured out.  As with many things in my own journey, it is a work-in-progress.  Fortunately, what is also true is that I have learned to celebrate the process: The journey itself is what life's all about.

Perhaps most importantly, I have also realized the importance of having a supportive tribe.  No one is expected to weather the storm alone.  We all need a few special peeps who’ve got our back, who don’t want or expect perfection, and who love us even when we’re struggling to love ourselves.

Please visit Dr. Tara’s Sunshine Resources page for more ideas on how to avoid the perfectionist trap.  I invite you to share any of your own helpful tips and suggestions so we can learn and grow together.  At the end of the day, let’s remember that we are perfectly imperfect and imperfectly perfect.  And that’s what makes us both human and beautiful.