Embracing Imperfection

We hear the word “perfectionism” tossed around a lot. I’ve used the word excessively, as if it was merely a bad habit. Being a grad student, a wife, a mommy… simply being a WOMAN, perfectionism is just way too relevant.

I’ve been reading a book recently called “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, who has spent 12 years researching human connection. She found that there is one thing that seems to create human connection: vulnerability. And there is one thing that seems to create human disconnection: shame.

Guess what Perfectionism is? It’s actually a form of shame. I had no idea. There are many forms of shame that she writes about… but because I related most closely to perfectionism, I figured I would write about it. I imagine many others I know can relate too.

Brene Brown talks about perfectionism NOT as healthy achievement and growth… it is not a key to success, nor is it the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is actually a shield. It is a defensive move. It’s the belief that in order to minimize or avoid pain of blame, judgment, and shame, we need to do things perfectly and look perfect.

Here’s a sum of 4 things I’ve learned about perfectionism through her book:

  1. Perfectionism is about trying to win approval
    Most perfectionists (including myself) grew up being praised for good works and accomplishments. Consequently, they end up equating their good behavior with being a good person. Thus stems the belief, “I am good if I perform well. My self-worth and value is achieved when I do things perfectly”.
  2. Perfectionism is correlated with missed opportunities
    Someone who wants to do something perfectly, simply will not do it if it’s anything less than perfect, instead of settling for the imperfect.
    “A 20-minute walk that I do is better than the 4-mile run I don’t do. The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer. The dinner party of take-out Chinese food is better than the elegant dinner that I never host.”– Gretchen Rubin
  3. Perfectionism stifles creativity
    Because we’re afraid to do anything imperfectly, we keep ourselves from trying new things, thinking outside the box, or attempting to step into the unknown.
    “Art, among all the other tidy categories, most closely resembles what it is like to be human. To be alive. It is our nature to be imperfect. To have uncategorized feelings and emotions. To make or do things that don’t sometimes necessarily make sense.”- Nicholas Wilton
  4. Perfectionism is a form of shame
    It is a way of jumping through hoops constantly for people’s approval. It’s a belief that “I am not good enough just the way I am, so I need to do things perfectly in order to be enough”.

We either own our stories (even the messy ones), or we stand outside of them- denying our vulnerabilities and imperfections, orphaning the parts of us that don’t fit in with who/what we think we’re supposed to be, and hustling for other people’s approval of our worthiness. Perfection is exhausting because hustling is exhausting… Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because perfection doesn’t exist. It’s an unattainable goal.”– Brene Brown

It seems that the best way to combat perfectionism is to embrace imperfection… to find beauty in the cracks… to say, “I am imperfect… and I am worthy of love and belonging.”

Can you relate to perfectionism?


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