Yes, I’m a recovering perfectionist.
I started this year recovering from covid, and it kinda threw me for a loop.
I had all of these beautiful plans that were laid out so “perfectly” in my schedule.
I wanted to wake up at 6:30 in the morning, meditate, make the bed, exercise, and eat a healthy breakfast before starting my day.
However, since New Year’s Eve, I’ve been laid up in bed, mostly, with a headache, bodyache, and heartache that my best laid plans were now mocking me from my Google calendar. I also had a death in my family, which I'll write more about next week.
I wanted to write this blog post to remind us that when it comes to anything in life – whether it’s financially related (like paying off debts, saving, or investing in your future goals) or other life goals – that it’s NOT about being perfect.
Life will always throw us some curveballs or since I’m a poker player, some not so desirable cards, and it’s up to us to play the hand that we are currently being dealt, rather than wishing we had pocket Aces.
I’m also writing this because over the holidays, I had written a card to my nephew to hopefully inspire him to take some action, or at the very least, to consider asking for help. Without getting into too many details, his life has stalled a bit, and what I observed is something that I think most people encounter – not taking action for the fear of failure. Do you relate?
I noticed it in myself over the holidays, when I received a white elephant gift of a lottery scratcher ticket. I didn’t immediately scratch it, and instead I gave it to my husband to do it for me a day later. I thought that it was very interesting behavior, on my part, because I’m usually a take-action kinda person. However, with that scratcher ticket, If I didn’t scratch, then I could still believe, in my head, that I had won a million dollars. The dream would stay intact, and be “perfect.”
Like most recovering perfectionists, my perfection started at an early age.
I grew up in a somewhat chaotic environment where if I didn’t do or say the “perfect” thing, then I would be blamed, yelled at, or even physically punished. The chaos led me to need a sense of “control,” and the only thing I had control over was myself. So, I would get Straight A’s, make sure my room was tidy, and I would even punish myself when I wasn’t “perfect.”
I started to rebel against this need for perfection around junior high school, but my rebellion only made me more distant from the people I loved. So neither perfection nor the rebellion against perfection was working.
I think it's important to note that although I tried to be "perfect" -- No one is perfect, and I have failed on many occasions. In fact, I’ve been fired/laid off from at least two jobs, and both times it led me down a depressive path but ultimately, it led to changing careers and reinventing what I wanted to do.
Nowadays, I still panic when things aren’t in my control or as perfect as I want them to be, but I’m more forgiving of myself, and I allow myself to laugh it off quicker than before. I also find that I’m more resilient to it and can bounce back quicker. I don’t allow myself to spiral and hide underneath the covers anymore because I’ve realized it doesn’t make it better.
Instead, I look at what I can control and take tiny steps towards those things.
We’ve all heard of the saying that “perfection is the enemy of creativity,” and I think it’s absolutely one of my mantras in these last couple of years because creativity is the way to problem solve out of crises, and if you’re constantly needing everything to be perfect, then it’s hard to see how you can actually get out of the situation. And that creates a spiral that leads to more procrastination and the procrastination can lead to depression, which of course, will lead to more procrastination.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Action, however, is the antidote. Taking just one step leads to taking the next step, and if that step doesn’t work out, I can always go in a different direction or come up with a creative solution to solve the problem.
I’m also seeing life as more of an adventure, an experience, and maybe even an experiment. I get to see if something works in this lab called life. I get to experience as much of what I want to experience as possible, and I get to see all of it as an adventure.
If I control it too much and need it to be perfect, then there is no experimenting, not an experience and definitely not an adventure. I already know the outcome, or at least, I think I already know the outcome. And that’s no fun.
I hope you’ll spend the beginning of the year setting your intentions but letting go of what the outcome needs to be or has to be. Instead, let’s get curious together. Let’s take those steps, experiment, experience and have an adventurous 2023. Are you with me? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you have some suggestions for a recovering perfectionist, please drop them in the comments too! I could use more ways to recover UN-perfectly!
With Curiosity & Love,
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