Perfection Illusion

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Image by TZA via Flickr

When are things perfect? How long do they stay that way? Who decides what perfect is anyway? If you have Virgo rising like me, or are just a natural perfectionist then these are some key questions to ask yourself. Perfectionism, or if we are being generous, detail orientation, is the crushing drive to make all experiences, actions, events, and people conform to a narrow, rigid definition of perfect.

There are some benefits to high standards, for sure, but when a person’s self-esteem and relationships with others begin to suffer, it has been taken too far. Some signs that we have crossed from high standards to perfectionism are: anxiety and depression when faced with a situation that can’t be ‘fixed’; procrastination when faced with potential critics; compulsive fixing of minor details (that ultimately mar or delay the work being done); people you love tell you they feel they will never be good enough for you. These are just a few examples.

So back to our questions. Who decides what perfect is? The short answer is: you do. Your own inner critic is ultimately the one who holds up the yardstick to all that you do. The inner critic is that part of you that pummels you for saying or doing the ‘wrong’ thing. The inner critic, if it is let free reign, is fueled by the comments of the ‘outer’ critics and meticulously keeps score of all your failures. It is one-sided and unfair, because it promptly forgets your wins. Left unchecked, a strong inner critic can destroy self-esteem. Often we hear far more criticism than praise from, usually, well-meaning people. Unfortunately, the negative stuff tends to be stickier than the positive stuff. The inner critic works hard to convince us that we need everyone to like us, all the time, in every situation, no exceptions. As long as we are looking for an external source of approval our inner critic is happy, because you start depending on something that you have no power over. At its worst, the inner critic grows so strong that even if highly respected authorities heap glowing compliments on us, we never believe them.

We can defeat the inner critic by nourishing our inner ally, the part of us who really knows that we are a piece of the Divine. Affirmations, complimenting others, and stopping all verbal criticism of ourselves and others are good first steps at undermining  the inner critic. Test this out. Practice “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” for a week. Our subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between something mean we say about someone else and something mean we say about ourselves. So go on a thought diet, no more mean things. You could also couple this with making an effort to say nice things about yourself (affirmations) and nice things about others (compliments). If this is new territory for you, start small with things you really believe and work your way up to more difficult levels of niceness.

When are things perfect and how long do they stay that way? Short answer: never, or hardly ever, and that is a good thing. Abraham often tells us that the negative things in our physical world are the starting point of new creations. Whenever we encounter something we don’t like, we immediately cause the Universe to start creating what we do want. We purposely chose a life situation that would give us the contrast we would need to grow and develop. The problem is never the unpleasant event, the problem is always staying stuck on what you don’t want and not focusing on what you do want.

As soon as you focus on the solution to a problem, the whole thing gets easier. You could never fix a car by examining the broken fuel pump over and over; you can only fix a car by finding a working part and replacing it. We often examine our problems too closely and completely forget to step back and see the big picture. It is often in that big picture view that we find our solutions. When we let go and embrace the whole of our lives, we gain perspective on the small little details we are worrying over. Ask yourself, is this really important? Is getting this thing I’m doing perfect worth the anxiety and restlessness? A small world view will always say ‘Yes, this is life or death.’, a big world view will usually say ‘No, this is pretty minor, just let it be.’

Perfection and criticism go hand in hand, like two best friends. They team up to convince you that you are less than you really are. So practise letting them go, and embrace being your own best friend.

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