Jun 18

Why are you a perfectionist?

Perfectionism“Perfectionism focuses only on the outcome, and it leaves no room to feel “positive” about it. Life isn’t about achieving a perfect outcome—whether it’s a dinner you’re making, keeping your house spotless, or the vision you have for how your life will turn out. It won’t turn out perfectly. Trust me. Life is about curves and twists and surprises. If we want to be healthy and happy, we must learn to recognize the beauty in the process of life, not the outcome.”  Dr. Christina Hibbert, The psychologist, the mom, and me

Perfectionism is a vicious cycle. I know from experience. I think most people would agree (especially those of us who have struggled with this tendency) that trying to be perfect in every area of life, every day, all of the time, without fail is just impossible.

It is not only not possible, it is hurtful and destructive. However . . . . . I find myself running to the rescue of anyone who faces this challenge because I understand the dilemma in which we find ourselves. The fear of NOT being perfect has us already in a state of anxiety. Then, we are frequently criticized and condemned for TRYING to be perfect until we are terrified that we have, once again, failed at being alive, and that makes us . . . . NOT perfect – again.

Well, there has to be a reason why we are trying so hard, and how we can give ourselves room to breathe without buying into the mentality that chaos, clutter, and disorganization are somehow magically “healthy.” I’ve been doing a bit of research on this topic, mostly because I will probably be a struggling perfectionist the rest of my life – and I know I am not alone. If you have an opinion or experience with this topic, you just might be interested to hear what others have to say about this struggle that so many of us deal with.

Dr. Christina Hibbert approaches perfectionism from a clinical perspective, being a psychologist as well as a woman and a mom. On the one hand, focusing only on the destination and fretting all along the way on the journey of life, will steal the joy from our everyday life. Driving ourselves to do it all, yesterday, twice will make us depressed, discouraged, and disappointed with everything. EVERYTHING.

Perfection and ExcellenceJust this morning, the thought crossed my mind: “Why even bother to try to sort and organize all this JUNK that has accumulated over the past year? I will never get it all cleaned up TODAY, so by even start?” How dumb is that!!! After working away from home for the past year and a half, with a family who uses “stuff” and drops “stuff” (usually because there is not enough room to store all of the “stuff” in this particular house), there is just “stuff” that needs to be sorted and either thrown away, given away, or put away. And it really annoys me.

I guess that is called a “procrastinating perfectionist.” Perhaps I’ve arrived here after years of driving myself to the point of complete exhaustion – and I just don’t think that “trying” will make any difference. So I hit the wall, again, trying to figure out the balance between “perfectionism” and “healthy.” I knew I couldn’t be the only person in the history of mankind to face this dilemma, so I went on a little research trip. What I found was, to say the least, quite enlightening and encouraging!

Most of the clinical articles identified three underlying motives for a person striving to be “perfect””

1. Anxiety

2. Insecurity

3. Lack of control

Perfect blocksThere are others, too, but these are the three that seemed to be part of every discussion on the topic of perfectionism. It makes sense. If we are feeling insecure or frightened, we seek to bring order out of chaos and peace into the midst of strife. And control into a situation that is out of control. So it seems to me that the motive for perfectionism is a good one.

After all, when we look at God’s creation, it is orderly and not chaotic. Even if one does not believe in a Creator God, the physical universe in all of its beauty reflects order. Trees do not grow upside down, the earth rotates on a predictable schedule, the seasons come and go at regular intervals.

Order and control are not our enemies, as we have so frequently been led to believe by those who would scold us for our diligence in creating a peaceful and tidy home environment for our families.

As I begin this research journey, there is much to be said on this topic. For now, I am encouraged to discover a couple of things – I am not alone, I am not weird, and I am pretty normal. Now that’s a HUGE discovery ;o) and I just had to share it with you.

Next time we will explore some of the ideas of other mom bloggers who suggest that keeping one’s home and life tidy offers children a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment. So much for all the loud voices criticizing us “perfectionists.” I guess it depends on your definition of “perfectionism,” so perhaps that should be investigated, too.

1 comment

  1. Heather

    It’s an interesting topic and I certainly can see both sides of the argument. I tend to go back and forth constantly between keeping a clean house and letting things slide siting spending time with my children. I really do think though, that there’s time for both.

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