As a recovering perfectionist, I've been asked by friends why in the world I would want to try to be perfect? My first answer was usually-- why wouldn't I? Have you ever hosted a party where the food turned out great, your house was clean and sparkling, your outfit was on point, and your guests had a fantastic time and made meaningful connections with each other? That rare kind of occurrence is why perfectionism has been an addiction for me. When times like that have happened, my mind has glossed over all of the work, extra energy, and self-inflicted pain that it takes to get to the illusion of perfect. Perfection is a Mount Everest that is rarely attainable. For most of my life, I was hooked on it, and I wanted to do anything to attain it. I questioned and berated myself to try to figure out why I couldn't achieve perfect on a daily basis. I concluded that the problem must be me.
When I think of myself in the past, when I was really focused on perfection, I was a taunt wire. I was stressed almost all of the time, even if I wasn't actively aware of the stress. It was under the surface, frequently appearing as migraines. I will delve more into my battle with migraines, in a future blog post.
Another way to look at perfection, is that it is a mirage. When you see someone, who seems to have it all together and under control, you don't know what difficult battles they may be facing. I try to keep this in mind when I interact with people, I don't know very well, and they seem angry or upset. Many times, I've used clothes, makeup and accessories as armor to help temporarily fill in the cracks. The danger in relying on your personal appearance to face the tough stuff in life is that it provides no comfort. The external is fluid, and it is not what makes up someone's character and their kindness. It's about how you love yourself. Intellectually, I know this, but when I've been struggling in the past, it's been any port in the storm.
I've found that the illusion of perfection can feel very good. It feels attainable, even if perfect moments don't exist. In those elusive moments, I've felt as if my impossible expectations have been met. Then, I gave myself permission to keep them and even expand on them. Why not set an even more lofty goal? In those perfect moments, I briefly relaxed, and I felt as if I've crossed a finish line. But, what was the cost? My mind was already planning an even harder battle that I couldn't win.
My daughter has taught me that perfect moments do exist, but they don't have anything to do with perfectionism, type A personalities, having everything in order or anything else that can be planned. Perfect moments involve hearing her giggle or holding her after her bath as she gets drowsy for bed. Perfect moments just happen, and it doesn't matter what you are wearing, how many loads of laundry you've done, or how your presentation went at work.
When I spilled wine, and it formed the shape of a heart.