Many of us, including myself, suffer from perfectionism. Striving to reach some perfect place, worrying about reaching goals – or not accomplishing as much or as well as we think we should , trying to achieve a state in which we can at last be worthy of our lives. Those are just a few of the detrimental aspects of perfectionism that take us away from enjoying the wonder of our selves and of being in the flow of life.
Where does the curse of perfectionism originate? In my opinion, it begins in childhood. We are all born with a natural understanding of wonderment and an innate ability to play and be in the moment. Little by little, our parents and teachers coax us away from being satisfied with ourselves. They convince us that we need to be or become “someone”. Implying that success means being other than what we already are. This also implies that we are somehow never quite good enough to earn their love and approval as we are right now. We must strive to be good, to be successful, to merit their consideration and acceptance. And as loving beings that children usually are, we do strive, we yearn, we hope to one day reach that place where we are ok, where we can relax and bask in the warmth of their love.
And guess what? The striving is a never-ending process. We never quite do get there. And our lives slip by, the authority figures who incited this process most often die and are no longer there to offer that elusive reward. Yet they live on in our minds, ceaseless slave drivers, pushing and annoying our hard-working self forward.
In my own case, my perfectionism has caused me to feel dread when I have time to finally be creative – to write or make art. I have fought this feeling for many years. It is always a struggle to begin working. I procrastinate, trying to perfect my working conditions to an impossibly optimal state. Or I work outdoors in my garden, a place where I can be creative and connect to the Earth – without any expectations. There, I don’t worry about outcomes or judgment from myself or others. In that place, I can be free and play.
The reality of the physical world is that everything is constantly degrading, changing. We cannot escape entropy, and it is possible to spend our entire lives trying to create a perfect environment – and completely lose sight that higher guidance and flow are available to us right now. My house will always be full of dust, corpses of insects who no longer need their bodies, objects that are scattered and papers that simply reproduce and make piles in their spare time. So my new “goal” for myself is to let go of all expectations of outcome or success. To realize that enjoyment, wonder, and fun are the true expression of being in life. To let go of seeking approval or success from outside of myself, and to know that true validation and synchronization with the flow of life comes from connecting to my own higher self. This process in itself is fun and exciting. Suddenly, life is no longer stressful and based on the opinions of others. There is so much to discover in spiritual life – so much guidance, support, and magic that all make life fun and exciting, bringing back the joy and energy of childhood.
It is funny that it takes work to become childlike again. To enjoy the work that should and does come naturally to me – when I am no longer imposing expectations on it. Our birthright as humans is to enjoy our lives, and to live in harmony with ourselves, our environment, and one another. When we connect to our inner lives and are respectful of our true selves and spiritual nature as human beings, we do naturally become infused with wonder. We stop trying to control the world, other people, ourselves, and life becomes easy again.