Thoughts on Perfectionism

It seemed like last week the theme  was “perfectionist”. 

When you think that you have to do things “perfectly”, it can be debilitating.  It can create an atmosphere of anxiety and depression.  These thoughts or mind-set can keep you from taking action, of living to your fullest, of thriving, or flourishing.

 I read a little about the word, "Perfect".  It means “finished” and “without Flaw”.

The definition lead me to thinking, “Really, what in life is ever, “Finished”?  There is always more that we can do.  Life itself is dynamic, ever changing, so how can something really be “finished”?

    And, to be without “Flaws”?  That is funny, because “flaws” are just part of reality, right?

A good example is the Japanese pottery process called “Kintsugi”.  They take the broken pottery and repair it with a lacquer of gold or silver.  That way the “flaws” are integrated into the piece and in the process, creating something new and beautiful, though technically, “flawed”.

      I then read that the words “Perfectionism” or “Perfectionist” were created by psychologists to describe some peoples tendencies.  Some people tend to strive towards creating something “perfect”.  They hold high standards for themselves and work towards that.  It can be useful, because you may end up with incredible works.  An example of a famous perfectionist was Leonardo da Vinci.  He was very creative and inventive and brought innovation to human society.

    Sometimes this tendency of perfectionism can be a trigger for anxiety and depression, sometimes because you feel unable to reach the high expectations.  Is there part of yourself the tends towards “perfectionism”?

If it is working for you, thats great!  However, if it is a cause for distress and you are not flourishing then you may want to reflect on some poetry. This song by Leonard Cohen, titled Anthem has a meaningful chorus for those who are held by the oppressive grasp of perfectionism.

    Ring the bells that still can ring

    Forget your perfect offering

    There is a crack, a crack, in everything

    Thats how the light gets in, thats how the light gets in.

Mary Oliver has written a meaningful poem, called Wild Geese

You do not have to be good

You do not have to walk on your knees 

For a hundred miles

through the desert

Repenting

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves

Tell me about your despair, yours

and i will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.  Meanwhile

the sun and clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes

over the prairies and the deep trees

the mountains and the rivers

Meanwhile the wild geese 

high in the clear blue air,

are heading home again

Whoever you are,

no matter how lonely,

the world offers

itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over

announcing your place in the family of things.