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How does perfectionism manifest in your life?

I am guilty of over-using praise such as “that’s perfect!” Having a daughter who inherited my eye for detail and tough inner critic voice, I have learnt that praising her for doing something perfectly is detrimental. So I’m trying to cut the word perfect out of my vocabulary.

I grew up fearing failure. Fear was always my driving motivation to succeed, and it manifested into perfectionism. I can’t tell you how many paintings I’ve discarded because they weren’t perfect enough in my mind. I can’t tell you how much stress and anxiety I endured because I was worried my job performance wasn’t perfect enough.

It’s not until we scrap the word perfect that we can see what the most important word is: enough.

I am enough. My job performance in every job I’ve had has been enough. My art is enough. The support I give to my hypnotherapy clients is enough to help them achieve their goals. I am a good enough mother.

Who ordered perfection? Well… I did a long time ago. And it’s a dish I will never get to eat anyway because the truth is we aren’t perfect. So why bother trying to be?

Here is a story of how I still catch myself looking for perfection:

A few months ago, I changed my ‘video off’ image on Zoom to my business logo.

I noticed straight away that there were some flaws in it I’d never picked up on before.

The gold ring was imperfect. I hadn't filled the white circle in enough so on Zoom it looks like there are some tiny black marks on the bottom of the gold ring.

My immediate reaction was to fix it but then I paused

I thought about a story I often use in hypnotherapy sessions with clients who struggle with perfectionism. A story that helps me to stop and accept good enough over perfect.

When weaving rugs, the Navajo tribe would intentionally weave a flaw into the edge of the rug. A single line that runs from the pattern to the edge of the rug. They did this because basically they believe only God, or the Creator, is perfect and we are not. When the weaver is creating a perfect rug, a part of her being or soul can get entwined into the rug. So, by creating a spirit line, called ch'ihónít'I, the weaver’s spirit can escape. This little line can look like a flaw in this seemingly perfect rug.

Purposeful imperfection.

And this philosophy can be found in so many other cultures such as in Islamic architecture, Indian embroidery and in Japanese ceramics. It’s a philosophy that stems back to medieval times, which is said to be the reason why there are purposeful architectural flaws in the National Cathedral in Washington.

In Japan, they have a term for it called wabi sabi, an aesthetic concept where ceramics were made with intentional imperfections such as shapes that are not quite symmetrical, and colours or textures that appear to emphasize an unrefined or simple style. Often tea bowls would be chipped or nicked at the bottom. Wabi sabi has been practiced since at least the 16th century.

There is beauty in imperfections.

There is freedom in not striving for perfection.

There is an overall sense of being more at peace with yourself, your world, your expectations, and your achievements when you don’t expect or reach for perfection.

Start with being good enough… not for the world, but for you.

I purposefully model to my daughter how I handle my mistakes and imperfections… I tried my best… it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough and good enough is all I need.

How does perfectionism manifest in your life?

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