“Other key themes discussed are how perfectionistic self-presentation and self-concealment can lead to suicides that occur without warning, and how perfectionists often come up with thorough and precise suicide plans.” – Dr. Gordon Flett
Perfectionism might kill you.
There is no such thing as perfect. There are no perfect relationships. There are no perfect children. There are no perfect jobs. There are no perfect lives.
Can we stop trying for perfect and settle on doing the best we can?
Culturally we revere perfectionism. We encourage people to aim to be perfect despite the impossibility of ever reaching such a place. In job interviews, we claim perfectionism as our best quality and others think that is an admirable confession.
My best quality is that I am never content or satisfied with my life. Really? That is not praiseworthy, it’s delusional.
Perfectionism is, and always will be, unattainable. This means that when you make your goal to be perfect at anything, you make the goal impossible. This will always leave you feeling like a failure.
The bottom line is that we all want to be loved, and some of us believe that we are only lovable when we are perfect. I have heard people say “I will date when I lose weight” or “I will apply for that job when I’ve had more training.” This is ludicrous logic.
I suggest we change the goal to: I’m doing the best I can.
Sometimes doing the best I can means I get up early, I get some laundry going, I pick up around the house, go to work, see several clients, go to the gym, walk both dogs, help with dinner, and do some writing. Some days the best I can do is drag myself out of bed and maybe complete one of the aforementioned tasks.
I understand that if you have children this means you have other lives for which you are responsible. But still, you have to give yourself permission to do the best you can as a parent. Some days you will be a super parent and feel like you’ve conquered the world. Some days you will war with your children and your partner and burn dinner. It is possible, and likely, that you are doing the best you can in both situations.
Your children are paying close attention to your perfectionism, so I encourage you to demonstrate “doing the best you can.” Once, I was at a birthday party coloring with a five year old girl. She was coloring a dinosaur and went outside the lines a bit. She proceeded to berate herself for making such a mistake, crumpled up the picture, and threw it away. I tried to convince her that the picture was beautiful. She would not even look at me.
“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
― Brené Brown
We have to make peace with the idea that most of us are doing the best we can, with what we have, where we are, and sometimes it’s a mess.