The I of Living Imperfectly: The Irony of the Perfectionist #atozchallenge

I Challenge LetterThe fundamental irony of perfection is that we are taught to strive for it only to discover that it is that ever present striving that prevents us from living a happy life. On the surface perfectionism is an admirable trait as it usually produce excellence, but it comes at a cost. And that cost is the feeling that what we are doing is never enough, we are never enough.

I work in profession dominated by A type personalities. To play the game and succeed, we were all striving to bring not only our A game, but to perpetually push and push so that one day we would be able to bring and sustain our A+ game. Writing this now it reminds me of the old party game of blowing at an air filled balloon to ensure that it never reaches the floor. Having kept the balloon in the air, at the end of the game you are left breathless and dizzy, but with a fleetingly temporary sense of achievement.

I have been researching the ways that perfectionism is ironic and have come up with the following list:

  • if ever anyone could achieve the state of perfection, it is doubtful anyone could tolerate that perfectionist for long. Fun is an integral part of life.
  • true perfection is about enjoying the moment, enjoying life. Perfectionism tends to rob us of this enjoyment and of our sense of awe and wonder.
  • believing as a perfectionist that you must never make mistakes means that you will probably look out for any mistakes or signs of failure so you can correct these immediately.

  • the demand for perfection can actually impede performance. For example, you may turn you into a chronic procrastinator because of the fear of making mistakes. This also extends to being less innovative and creative or less open to new ideas.

  • far from being liberating, perfectionism is a psychological dictatorship. As one site puts it:

These personal restrictive ‘prisons’ are built on a solid foundation of rigid rules and assumptions of right and wrong, with walls of ‘should’s’ and ‘ought’s’ and ‘mustn’t’s’, strong bars of perfectionism, unbreakable locks of defeatism, and guards of arrogance on a constant duty to ‘be right’.

This description is so apt. I was trying to describe this very thing in my F post a couple of days ago and was struggling to put it Charlie Browninto words. I have discovered over the past couple of years that letting go of the black and white thinking plays a huge part in jettisoning perfectionist tendencies. That, and humour. However it is so very easy to slip back into old comfortable habits, so one must be ever vigilant and practice conscious awareness.

One thing that has struck me already about this Challenge is that in writing about perfectionism, I am taking a rather hard line. I don’t mean too, but it generally reflects the hard line I am taking with myself for having not realised all of this sooner (more perfectionism???). On the surface, perfectionism seems to have served me well, but I am only just getting a true picture of what I have missed in being the perfect perfectionism practitioner.

It is only now, by letting my grey matter think in grey terms that I am seeing colour. And that seems to be the most ironic truth of all.

Irony quote

 

 

The Great A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal: Perfectly Imperfect

To prove that bloggers are not only creative but also ingenious, the folks at #TeamDamyanti are hosting the A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal. A blog hop within a blog fest, today is the day that more than three hundred bloggers reveal their theme for the A to Z April Blogging Challenge. A to Z Theme Reveal They have answered the age old question of to Theme or not to Theme with a resounding yes and have put their theme out there.

Last year, I decided to run with a theme for the first time. It was so much fun, that I’m doing it again this year. Last year I blogged a twenty six step permission slip, allowing myself to do, experience and think about things in a way I had never done before. The whole April journey was enjoyable, revealing and cathartic. In a similar vein, my theme for this year is….

The A to Z of Living Imperfectly

In today’s world there is a real pressure to try to have it all and be it all. Society pressures us into acting and thinking a certain way and whilst there is some wriggle room within those confines, it is not always enough. From what we do for a living, to what we wear, what we eat, how we parent and how we spend our leisure time there are enduring expectations. If you are a certain age you are expected to behave a certain way (or not to behave in a certain way), if you are a parent there is incredible pressure for perfection, a pressure we tend to project onto our children’s’ lives all too readily.

If perfection is the key to success or the road to happiness, then I have failed miserably to find that key. And yet I feel successful and happy. This spurs me even more to push my personal boundaries and grow, much to the chagrin of my peers who have certain  views on the perfect midlife hair, fashion, etiquette, social activities and more. My views are somewhat different, no better or worse, and it just means that I have eschewed perfection for authenticity. When I talk about perfection in this context, I mean acting or thinking in such a way that is generally regarded as the best way to act or think.

To my mind perfection is an illusion sort of like the equation X +1. You think you have hit X only to find there is always one more step so you keep on striving and others keep on judging. This is not to say don’t do your best, but making perfection one’s life quest is fraught.

In April, I am going to explore the concept of perfection looking at certain areas where society expects perfection and conclude why it is more than acceptable not to be perfect. I hope it will serve as a beacon or a flair for those who have decided that perfection is not all that it is cracked up to be or who are thinking about taking their first tentative steps away from perfection.

perfectly fine

I hope that my struggles with perfection will give you some insights and demonstrate that we all have our individual struggles with it and that is OK.

Come join me in April for some imperfect living.

And to wet your appetites just a little more, here are a few more WordPress bloggers who are partaking in the Challenge and who revealed their themes today:

  • Carrie Anne, who blogs at That Dizzy Chick revealed her Challenge theme of inspirational quotes. Get set for a whole month of inspiration
  • Linda Maye Adams who blogs at her site of the same name, revealed her theme of what is it like to be in the military. According to Linda’s blog she is an author and a soldier having spent 12 years in the Army. Sounds like some unique insights in store for us in April
  • A Short A Day is an author’s blog and in April this author will blog a story. One hundred words every day starting with the relevant letter of the alphabet.
  • Lainey who blogs at laineyrain, revealed her Challenge theme of be braver . This will be a series of blogs about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Go Lainey!
  • Precari0us who blogs at Sumptuous Living revealed her theme of letters to my daughter, a fictional series.

With this sort of variety April is shaping up to be a great blogging month. Sign ups for the Challenge have now reached the 1400 mark and it’s still not too late if you want to join in. You can sign up here.

Eight days to go to A Day!!