“Don’t pointless things have a place, too, in this far-from-perfect world? Remove everything pointless from an imperfect life, and it’d lose even its imperfection.”
― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart
Picture an ad for the latest life-changing medication, with a few key changes:
Is a mismatched life getting you down? Does living with pet hair on the floor, smudges on the windows, and clover in the yard leave you feeling like you just can’t keep up with the neighbors? Is it driving you crazy that your end tables don’t match? You can be cured today! Take up PERFECTIONISM and find joy in life. PERFECTIONISM will allow you to open your doors to visitors, invite compliments into your perfect life, and so much more. Side effects may include insomnia, anxiety, irritability, suicidal tendencies and other unhealthy long-term health issues, not to mention the lack of pleasure others will take in being around you when you are so caught up in making the world around you perfectly pleasing for no one but yourself.
We take medications that have possible life threatening side effects because we hope that the risks are worth our getting what the company promises the drug will deliver. We take on perfectionist tendencies, and many would take a pill, in hopes of having a picture perfect life at the risk of being too wrapped up in things and appearances and not wrapped up enough in life.
In many houses and businesses I’ve visited, I have noticed pieces of furniture that ‘go’ together. In fact, I get the feeling that everything in those places fits together perfectly, which somehow leaves me feeling that I am lacking. You see, the most frequently spoken words when someone comes into my home are “I love how eclectic your home is!” That word, eclectic, describes my home and my life. I don’t have a certain decorating style and I’m not just of one school of thought. I’m imperfect in every way, and I am finally almost perfectly at peace with that.
Don’t think this is written to suggest that you should redecorate your home. Instead, look around at the way your home, your office, your desk, or your self is put together, and celebrate how you are and who you are just as you are. If having everything perfectly matched delights you, great! If having everything perfectly matched or your job perfectly completed consumes you, decide if the side effects of your ‘drug’ are worth the perfection in your life.
In developing my focus on personal freedom, I have discovered that being able to appreciate perfection and not settling for less than perfection are two different things. One choice inspires me to celebrate the freedom that can be mine, while the other will keep me from ever finding true freedom.
I have experienced and have taken pictures of a perfect sunset, a perfect flower bud, a perfect bluebird, a perfect pose of our dog. I have seen magazine covers of the perfect table setting, the perfect furniture arrangement, the perfect color scheme. Those were each perfect moments, but they were just moments, and when we try to hold a moment of perfection as the bar by which life is measured, we will fall short every time.
Perfectionism isn’t inherently a bad thing. It can propel you to be better than you are, and forward progress is usually a good thing. When a basketball player strives for the perfect shot and practices over and over to be better, it is good. When that same player is consumed by the lack of perfection in his shot, it becomes a dangerous game. There are people who cannot go to bed at night until everything in their house is put away, every dish washed, laundry completed, and list for the following day in place. When that need for order interferes with being able to enjoy life, there is a problem worth addressing.
Striving for perfection is good. Demanding perfection is not good.
- Striving for the well-decorated, clean home is good. Never inviting anyone over for fear of being judged is not good.
- Striving for a healthier, more in-shape body is good. Making life unpleasant for yourself and all around you as you are consumed with more exercise classes and calorie counting is not so good.
- Striving for perfect attendance at school or work is good. Showing up when you are sick and can infect others is not good.
- Encouraging your child to be their best in school or other activities is great. Demanding that they are nothing less than perfect is unfair.
Find balance. Strive for perfection and be happy that you have made progress. Encourage your children to do well, and allow them to fail. When we allow our desire for perfection to meet with the possibility of imperfection, there is balance and a taste of freedom. Find the balance.