Tag Archives: Salvador Dali

In A Perfect World

Confession – I am a recovering perfectionist. Recovering as in I work on it daily…everyday. In some ways it is like an addiction – it is a daily struggle to stay on track and not slip back into that old habit.  I struggle with the tendency to be perfect in all that I do each and every day and I struggle to remind myself that I am not perfect – never have been and never will be – and that’s okay.  It’s hard, to say the least, and I am not even sure I know how or when I learned to be this way, but at some point in my childhood perfectionism became a thing for me and I have been fighting with it ever since.

From what I say to what I do and how I do it, I am in a constant battle with myself.

  • * I write in pencil mostly so I can erase things if they aren’t neat enough or organized on the paper in a neat and orderly fashion.
  • * I will redo projects, writings, lists, etc. numerous times if they are not “perfect”.
  • * I obsess over what I am going to say in scheduled meetings…and you can be sure I will critique what I said after the fact with a fine tooth-comb.
  • * I will even go so far as to write out things I am going to say in meetings if I think it is important enough to make sure I say the right words.
  • * When I write my blog, I write and rewrite over and over in a search for the perfect words.
  • * I have put off doing many things (i.e. projects, life goals, etc.) in my life because not everything was “perfect”.

That’s just a sample of the ways in which my perfectionism manifests itself daily…just enough of a sample to give you an idea of what I am talking about.

And if I’m not perfect, which of course is all the time, then that ego voice in my head has a field day telling me what a horrible person I am because I can’t get anything right. It is a crazy, vicous cycle that for years plagued me with little relief. But in the past 3-4 years I have slowly come to accept and understand that, like everyone else in the world, I am not perfect, that I will not do things perfectly, and that despite my imperfections the world will continue to spin on its axis and life will go on.  I will be fine, as will others around me, despite my imperfections.  It’s a matter of reprogramming my brain to relax in the face of imperfection and ultimately to stop expecting it altogether.

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

Here’s what I have found to work for me when I feel that perfectionst tendency kicking in:

  1. Stop and breathe.
  2. Step back and ask myself how big is this thing really…what’s the worst that can happen if I don’t do/say this perfectly.
  3. In extreme cases, I may ask for a second opinion from a trusted friend or colleague on how big of a deal a lack of perfectionism might be in this case.
  4. Most importantly, I give myself permission to be human…which means I give myself permission to not be perfect.

Being perfect is not the same as wanting to do excellent work. Wanting to do excellent work is a wonderful and important goal, but we have to find a way to release ourselves from the stranglehold of perfectionism in the midst of trying to do excellent work. Trying your hardest and doing your best should be the goal, not being flawless or otherwise risk being subjected to internal ridicule.  We thrive and improve from hard work, determination, positive support and motivation, not from listening to that demeaning voice in our head beating us up for not doing something perfectly.

I know I am not alone in this battle with perfectionism. I have met enough others just like me to know perfectionism is a bit of an epidemic in our society. So the good news is there are plenty of us out there to be able to support one another in a quest to let go of the hold perfectionism has on our lives.  Each one of us is perfect in our own way, so there is no need to compare ourselves with some external, unrealistic measure of perfection.  Simply work hard, do your best, live a positive and powerful life and allow yourself to be perfectly imperfect.  Strive to make tomorrow better than today, don’t strive to make it perfect.

“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection. – Kim Collins

It’s Perfect

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

Having no mistakes or flaws. A state of being that I think most of us try to reach at some point or in a specific area of our lives.  Yet, as Dali points out, it is a state that can never be reached.  What a frustrating reality!

And perhaps the worst part is that we fool ourselves into believing that if we just try harder, do something different than we have done before, or put in a little more time and effort we can reach perfection…and so that is what we do time and time again. But all we end of doing is creating anxiety and frustration for ourselves…we end up feeling as if we have failed in some way or that there is something wrong with us as a result.  We’ve all been here haven’t we?  Whether you want to be the perfect parent, the perfect student, the perfect athlete, the perfect sibling, the perfect employee, the perfect neighbor, the perfect party planner, the perfect gift giver, the perfect child, the perfect leader, the perfect artist, the perfect spouse, the perfect writer…surely we have all been there at least once in our lives.

Reflect back for just a moment to one such time, maybe not so long ago, when you were trying very hard to be perfect at something. Think about all the things you did, all the time you put in, and all the thoughts that were going through your mind…

Now think about how you felt when, at the end of it all, you realized it still wasn’t perfect. Whether someone else pointed out flaws, whether you realized after the fact that there were things missing or whether it was rejected in some way by the very people you were working on it for, what thoughts went through your mind at that point? Did you mentally berate yourself for being unsuccessful? Did you feel like a failure?  Did you start making excuses for why it wasn’t perfect?  Did you begin thinking of what to go back and fix or do differently?  If you are like most of us you probably had some combination of all of those things going through your head.

Isn’t it interesting how little compassion we have for ourselves when we don’t “measure up”? Imagine for a moment it was your friend or your child or another family member who put all that time and effort into something and was working through all those emotions surrounding it not being perfect. Would you tell them they were a failure or that they are incapable of doing decent work?  I would venture to guess that you would not.  In fact I’d be willing to bet you would encourage them and build them up.  Yet, why don’t we do that for ourselves?  Why are always so much harder on ourselves?

Striving for perfection in and of itself is not an inherently bad thing. Where we go wrong with it is when we allow the desire/need for perfection to rule how we do things, how we respond upon completion, and how we treat ourselves in the end. It is a fine line. We want and need people to do their best work, in essence to aim for perfection, but we have to also realize and come to terms with the fact that we will never reach perfection and that is okay too.  It is a difficult balance to say the least.

Some final thoughts…to paraphrase a quote I once read, the one person deserving of your love and compassion more than anyone else in the world is you. If you can’t give it to yourself, you will not be able to give it fully to anyone else either. Start with yourself and then work outwards from there. We are all imperfect humans…embrace that fact and love those imperfections rather than pick them apart.  Reach for perfection but know and understand you won’t ever obtain it…and that’s okay!