Perfectionism – it’s a trap

In Japanese culture, there is a term, Wabi-sabi, which is the view or thought of finding beauty in every imperfection in nature. It is about the aesthetic of things in existence, that are “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. This philosophy is deeply influenced by the teaching of the Buddha and derived from the three marks of existence that are “impermanence” (mujō), suffering (ku) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (kū)”.

As you can tell from the title this article is about perfectionism and that trap it creates, but maybe it’s also about embracing the Wabi-Sabi philosophy of finding the beauty in our own imperfections. I’m sure we’ve all either had an experience with someone we would consider a perfectionist or maybe it’s you, either way, you have an idea of what you think it means. But the reality is that many of us may be suffering from perfectionism and not even know it. I say “suffering” because that’s what it truly is. Perfectionism is self-sabotaging and can affect us in so many ways. While some may see it as a positive trait that increases success, the trap of being perfect can lead to self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that actually make it more difficult to achieve goals and complete anything. In the end being perfect causes stress, anxiety, depression, and can potentially lead to mental health issues. 

Let me back up a bit and give you the real.  Perfectionism hides in plain sight in many of our lives. A few of the signs are:

  • Procrastination. Won’t begin a task unless they know it can be done better. 
  • Taking forever to complete a task.
  • Creating a non-existent or arbitrary standard for yourself.
  • Difficulty being happy for others who are successful. 
  • Believing that missing a few points is a failure. 
  • Chronic avoidance of a situation because of fear of criticism or failure. 
  • Excessive worrying about your appearance.

The list goes on… 

There are so many ways perfectionism can show up differently and even more ways of how it develops in the first place. It’s also important to consider that what we do to ourselves can often be projected onto other people. So if you are someone who claims to be empathetic and compassionate, then stop being nit-picky and so critical about yourself.

How can I stop trying to be perfect?

  • Be generous with yourself knowing that you’re working on something greater and that it’s all part of a process.
  • Learn to embrace your originality and unique way of doing things. Don’t get caught up in worrying about how “you think” someone wants things done.
  • Radical self-acceptance – The more you accept and take care of yourself, the more naturally you let go of perfectionist tendencies.
  • Focus on what you can control: thoughts, what you think about yourself, your schedule/time, how you take care of yourself, what you eat, who you hang out with. You can’t control what other people do with their time and their thoughts so stay focused on yourself.
  • Commit to living a lifestyle and a way of being imperfect.

Your best is enough

Remember that doing your best is not the same as striving for perfection. Doing your best comes from you knowing yourself better than anyone else. The more you can allow yourself to see that, the more you can radically accept yourself and how beautifully and amazingly imperfect you are, that is when you will also be able to receive all of the love and light that is within you. Learn to look at yourself through the lens of Wabi-Sabi and truly see the beauty in your imperfections. The highest vibration is seeing ourselves as the perfect works-in-progress that we are, instead of seeing perfection as something to attain. 

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
– Salvador Dali

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