“Do not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good.”*
This is some of the best advice I have ever received. This is the freedom rally my recovering perfectionist self needs.
Being a perfectionist does not imply that one does things perfectly… au contraire gophair.
Perfectionism should not be confused with qualities such as excellence or refinement.
(However, perfectionist types can certainly express these qualities.)
Perfectionism is always seeking the “right” answers. It looks outside, rather than within, for affirmation and acceptance. Complete and lasting validation is never achieved, and perfectionism is never wholly satisfied.
Perfection is mired in thoughts of “should”. It does not allow for flowing — into and through — successes and learning from mistakes.
The perfectionist rally is the word “should”, as in, “I should be doing this,” or, “He should have done that”. Perfectionism “shoulds” all over itself.
Harsh judgement of self and others is often rooted in perfectionism.
Perfectionists can often be very, very hard on themselves.
“I never have to worry about coming down on you too hard about a mistake,” a former employer once told me. “I know you will beat yourself up more than I ever could or would.”
I recently attended a horse-whispering demonstration by Martha Beck Institute Master Life Coach extraordinaire, Koelle Simpson.
There was a key part of the demonstration where Koelle introduced a plastic bag to the horse. The crinkly sound of the bag is very disturbing to a wild horse, and typically causes a nervous uprising.
But this horse stood stock still. “This horse has been punished for acting on its instincts,” Koelle sadly remarked. “But notice the twitching muscles and tail, and her fearful wide-eyed appearance.”
My eyes were welling with tears; I understood the horses’ response completely. “If I just act perfect enough,” the horse seemed to convey, “I won’t be beaten down again”.
The story had a happy ending; a masterful horse-whisperer, like Koelle, is able to earn connection and trust with wild horses. This beautiful creature was no exception.
What is the antidote to perfectionism? Authenticity and healthy boundaries.
This requires connection with the inner wisdom of the body.
The body compass is an excellent tool for listening in, and developing an ability to flow in continual creative response to less-than-perfect circumstances.
Your own body compass is an excellent tool for mastering flow.
Flow is the ability to fluidly move with currents of change, while steering one’s vessel towards the magnetic pull of good or better vs. perfect.
Unlike perfection, flow is not an other-directed, static destination.
It is an internally guided, dynamic and fluid approach to being and doing.
Calibrating your internal body compass for flow is simple.
But it takes a little knowledge, attention, and conscious practice.
Practicing flow is oh so worth the effort.
Perfectionism asks, “Is this the right way to do this?”
Flow asks, “What is my right way to do this? How am I being as I find my way? How does this feel?
Flow gets you to your destination, and allows you to savor the journey.
When you experience flow, you know… it is better than perfect.
*My gratitude to Dr. Tashi Nyima, Ayurvedic Teacher, and Founder of the Dharma Institute.