Sooner or later, I was going to write a post about perfectionism. It looks like it came sooner rather than later. When I first saw the video by Dr. Stephen Daniel called http://pathtoyourhealth.com/perfectionism-form-autoimmune-disease-lets-free
Perfectionism is a Form of Autoimmune Disease: Let’s Be Free of It!, approximately less than an hour after it was posted on QT’s YouTube channel, I chuckled. It was almost as if Dr. Daniel was indirectly speaking to me. Even if he was, that’s fine. I know I’d been displaying some perfectionistic behaviors lately so I wasn’t surprised at all to see that video. Besides, I know that many people can relate to this topic as well. It was perfect timing.
I also knew it was time to write about this topic because, that same day, I came across a book by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. titled The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. If you don’t already know, Dr. Brown has been featured on “Super Soul Sunday” on Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and her TED talks have been viewed by millions.
I didn’t pick up the book because I was wrestling with this topic. Even though books can’t talk, if they could, this one seemed to have said to me, Pick me up and read me. So I picked it up and read it. To top it off, that same day, I also received e-mails (not readers from the QT blog) about this topic. I let out another chuckle. Finally, I said to the Universe, “I get it. I will write about this.”
I don’t know about you, but I have wrestled with this theme of perfectionism before. I was not always that way and I am not a perfectionist in all areas of my life. According to Dr. Brown, “perfectionism exists along a continuum. We all have some perfectionistic tendencies.” And, believe it or not, I don’t consider myself a perfectionist nor am I in denial, either. But, I can certainly learn to be more relaxed in certain areas of my life though.
When I think back to the possible reasons why I may have acted perfect or displayed what http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/perfectionist?searchDictCode=all Oxford Dictionaries call a “person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection,” also known as a perfectionist, don’t worry, I’m not reliving my story here, I’m only doing it here for the purpose of this post, I thought to myself, Could it be that it was my way of avoiding future punishment because my 2nd grade teacher punished me for getting a multiple choice question wrong and wouldn’t stop until I got it right? And, I also thought, Could it be that one time when my father asked me to address an envelope for him because I had neat handwriting and I blew it and got yelled at? Those are all possible reasons. But, the truth of the matter is, clearing the underlying problem is the key, whatever those reasons may be for each one of us.
Now, you may also be wondering, Isn’t being perfect doing your best? Doing your best is one thing and striving to be perfect is another. They’re both not the same thing. The former is freeing and the latter is constricting. To illustrate further, I recall, many years ago, I called a practitioner who practices Christian healing (I tried a lot of therapies mind you). I don’t even recall what I’d called her for, but I remember what she’d said to me. I’ll never forget it because it took me over 5 years and during the writing of this post to understand the wisdom she’d kindly bestowed. She said: “you are not striving for perfection, you are working from perfection.” At that time, I had no clue what that meant. Rather than feeling relieved of my problem, I left the session that day feeling pained, anguish, and lost.
I asked her to explain, but she regurgitated what she said instead. I silently thought to myself, Oh great, and probably rolled my eyes in irritation at myself for not understanding. Then, click; she hung up. That was typical of her sessions. Her sessions were all less than 5 minutes long. I haven’t spoken to her since, but I will treasure the wisdom she’d shared with me that day. Some teachers do that, but once in a while, it’s easy to mistake their intentions.
As I pondered what she said, “You are not striving for perfection, you are working from perfection,” what I think she meant was that if we strive to be perfect or strive for perfection, we are never going to get there. But, when we are working from perfection, we come from the starting point that we are already perfect right now, right here, at this moment. I strongly believe that when we do that, the outcome will be perfect, too. If we come from the starting point that we are not perfect, then we can expect the outcome to be that, too. It’s just the law of cause and effect. If we get the cause right, everything else (the effect) will be right, too.
Spiritually speaking, we are perfect. It’s a hard concept to grasp. I know. It was so hard for me to understand that at the time, too. And you know what, it doesn’t matter if you don’t get it this time around. The more you clean up your mental house, soon, you will come to understand just how perfect you already are. I have been doing this work for a long time so I know and I am still working on it.
What really rings true for me regarding this issue isn’t just about striving to be perfect or for not acknowledging that I am perfect as I am right now. It’s what Dr. Brown writes in her above mentioned book: “[This] unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.” Without this experience, I wouldn’t have known any better.
So, I thought about it. If I were to go about my life continuing to settle for less, my life would have continued to reflect that today. I don’t think that was what the Divine had in mind for me and neither for you. But, that’s what the limited human mind does, it gets in the way. We impose all these unnecessary beliefs on ourselves and without knowing the Truth of who we are, we allow these thoughts of limitations to lead us astray.
You see, for whatever reasons, we may be living in our heads more than our hearts. We conjure up all these thoughts of what other people might be thinking about us when they’re not. No matter how hard we try to prove or convince people otherwise, they’re not because they have their own preconceived notions of what they want to see and believe or believe and see. You have to see yourself differently and others will soon see you that way, too.
Although I don’t recall how it all happened, and how I came to that point of striving for perfection, what I do know is that one day, all of a sudden, I just woke up feeling that way. Just like that. I noticed that I strove to be better, and I got worked up if I didn’t get things exactly right. Fortunately, for the most part, I didn’t need to take out a ruler to make sure everything was in its place or beat myself with it if things didn’t go my way.
Over time, somewhere deep within, I knew that being perfect wasn’t a good way to live. If it was, I wouldn’t have felt so much emotional pain. I hated feeling so rigid. I disliked feeling the emotions underneath that I have now come to understand were called guilt, shame, inadequacy, or unworthiness. I didn’t know that in some ways, when I strove to be ‘perfect’ I was also self-punishing myself. I agree with Dr. Daniel that perfectionism is a form of autoimmune disease because when we make mistakes or don’t get things right, we end up attacking ourselves. Dr. Daniel also says that “perfectionism is a very severe, insidious disease designed to cause you to suffer, without exception.” It is no wonder why I didn’t feel so good each time I launched into a perfectionistic attack on myself. How does that serve my highest good and yours? It doesn’t.
From that, I also knew that I was disconnected from the Divine truth of who I was and who I was supposed to be, otherwise, I wouldn’t have needed that revelation, and many more, to wake up to my true self. Without these lessons in perfectionism, I wouldn’t have known that I could be better. I wouldn’t have known that there was a better way of living and a higher way of being. If it weren’t for those lessons, I wouldn’t be who I am today, either, which I am truly grateful for.
I broke out of my perfectionistic behaviors after much inner work on myself. One turning point came after I read Dr. Bruce Wilkinson’s Secrets of the Vine: Breaking Through to Abundance. I have had that book for well over a decade but the words finally came alive for me. Near the end of the second to the last page, Dr. Wilkinson wrote: “You were created for a life-mission of abundance for God.” I realized that when I do my work with the focus that they’re all for the Divine, there’s no reason why I need to play small. I also realized that I don’t need to compete, prove, convince, seek approval or acceptance, be better than, or compare myself with others. I can still do the best that I can and ultimately, that’s the best that we all can do, really.
Looking back, not only were these lessons in perfectionism opportunities to recognize that I had much to shed, the lessons were there to teach me to let go of the false beliefs of who I thought I was supposed to be and who I thought others wanted me to be. Without this awareness and lessons in Truth, I couldn’t have embarked on a journey towards embracing who I am today and love every aspect of my being including my imperfections. I now know that at this moment, I am perfect as I am, and so are you.
Embrace all of you including your imperfections.