Be perfect or be on purpose? Which one of these has been “driving your bus” so far? If you or someone you know struggles with perfectionism, can this hold you back from living on purpose?
Ask someone to walk to the moon and you’ll hear, “Not realistic,” as a response. They wouldn’t have a problem giving that answer.
Ask some people to be perfect and you can almost hear the inner and outer dialogue start — “You have no idea how hard I try to be just that.”
What was the appropriate response to the second request?
Perfection, in the way it is usually understood and accepted, is not possible.
Perfection in Tick-Tock
Tick-Tock is what we call that space in time where we believe the outer world is more real than the inner one. It’s where either segments of society or individuals tell us our self-worth is about what we have—titles, degrees, assets—rather than about who we are, how we express ourselves in our lives and in the world.
Tick-Tock loves perfectionists because it knows it can get people to buy into struggle rather than flow. When people struggle, they don’t embrace or even remember they have an inner power. They are too focused on the struggle. Too busy doing rather than being.
When you’re in flow, your inner power more readily lets go of judgment, lets go of negative types of control, and embraces process for what it is—perfection and imperfection as two parts of a whole, but with different than the usual understanding of them:
There is perfection in imperfection and imperfection in perfection.
One aspect that becomes quite clear when you interact with a perfectionist is the imperfection of this way of being. You observe a person “wound up quite tight;” and you witness what happens when everything is not “perfect” according to their requirements. It doesn’t take much to set them off in panic or anger; and, there is a tendency to micro-manage everyone in their circle of influence. When they cannot control every moment and result so that events manifest the way they have imagined would be expected of them, their world is shaken.
Not only do they feel enraged (afraid of what they’ll lose), but frequently express this rage, damaging others’ respect for them. These people seem never to look within.
To a perfectionist, a problem is a catastrophe, not an opportunity for growth and expression of potential. For them, everything that goes amiss is external to them—or, at least, this is what many perfectionists project. What’s going on inside of them is another matter.
This particular form of perfectionism makes good people bad leaders in the workplace—or the home—and of their lives (they behave like managers instead).
Typically, there is no allowance for normal human behavior or growth processes to occur. Not for them, not for others.
Many involved with these individuals become either withdrawn, rebellious, or they move on. It’s a sad sight; and it robs everyone involved of the joy, harmony, and creative environment that could be the reality.
There also seems to be a lack of appreciation for spontaneity. Everything must be planned down to the smallest detail.
One perfectionist I know created an agenda for his ten-year-old granddaughter’s visit, starting from the moment she got off the train until she was to return home. It was remarkable to see items listed such as “12:45 – arrive at the zoo; 12:50-12:55 – Monkeys; 1:00-1:05 – Llamas; 1:10-1:15 – Ice Cream Cone.” It could have been humorous were it not so sad. Tick-Tock. Tick-Tock. No time for spontaneity.
This type of behavior also leaves little room for “this or better” moments to be appreciated when they happen. If something isn’t done in the way they believe it should be or by when they believe it should be, even if something better happens because of it, they either don’t see it or refuse to acknowledge it.
Perfectionists believe that their value as people is judged by virtue of what they do and do perfectly.
If they happen to read a self-improvement book, they rarely relate the information to themselves. They only see “flaws” they perceive in others.
When others—or they—don’t perform to their standards, even if unrealistic, they seldom, if ever, pause to ask what is working right.
Their struggle is a difficult one because they spend a great deal of time thinking about what needs to be done, who needs to do it, how it needs to happen.
Were it not for the affectation of perfectionism influencing the process and outcome, these things are strengths. Channeled correctly, these strengths could create tremendous positive change and environments.
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