The beauty of “good enough.”
I am a recovering “perfectionist.”
I have been working hard for years to go from “everything HAS to be perfect” to letting in Brené Brown’s theory of “good enough.”
Raised by a feminist single Mom, “good enough” wasn’t going to cut it for me, her little girl. “PERFECT,” although she never used that term, was what she encouraged me to aim for. It wasn’t her fault, lots of Moms were helping their young daughters in the ‘70s navigate the new message of “we burned our bras so you can be anything you want to be” and the added pressure to those of us who wanted to make those women proud.
For years, when I aimed for “perfection,” I was rewarded for that effort. It got me plenty of job offers, big salaries, and important job titles. It also gave me a lifetime of anxiety and perfection paralysis. I am not sure that way of living was worth any fancy job title or big salary.
So, I’ve been trying something different. I quit aiming to be perfect, and instead, continue to aim for imperfect. And I take inspiration in the words of three amazing women who remind me it is safe for me to be imperfect.
Coach Lindsey wrote an incredible blog recently on being a Beginner and the beauty of Beginner’s Mind…Not sure what Beginner’s Mind is? Lindsey reminds us that it is a Zen Buddhist belief that “when you embrace being a beginner at something, you are your most open and vulnerable. Therefore, you are in a state of constant learning and experimentation. You actively work on non-comparison and non-judgment because well, you’re just starting out. There’s no need to know everything.” Thanks, Lindsey, for that reminder.
You know what I think is the best part of being a beginner? Beginners don’t have to be perfect. You get to do it messy. You get to do it “just so.” You basically have a “get out of jail free card” that allows you to be as imperfect as you want. But what has always amazed me is how uncomfortable folks are being in the “beginner’s stage.” We seem to immediately strive to be “perfect” at things that we just learned. Who in the world can actually achieve this kind of success? Not many actually, yet so many try to achieve this herculean feat. I say stay a beginner for a while and enjoy the freedom! Live in the imperfection of being a beginner and relish the learning.
Other than taking on beginner’s mind, how does one take steps in becoming a recovering perfectionist? Well, keep being perfect, but change what you are perfect in. With this in mind, let me be honest, I am still a perfectionist, but I am perfect at being imperfect. It allows me to strive for success in something, all be it a bit different success than most people strive for. By being imperfect, you finally recognize your ego voice exactly for what it is: You are your own personal Success Prevention Expert. And that expert keeps you stuck. And that keeps you “as-is.” So, by my thinking, perfectionism actually keeps you stuck. And is the opposite of growth, that thing that so many perfectionists aim for. Ironic, right?
I look to my “spirit animal,” Elizabeth Gilbert, who shares in Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear that, “I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more that a deep existential angst the says, again and again, ‘I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.”
And finally, thank you to Coach Erika Gerdes who recently wrote in one of her recent blogs about her own inner critics that have kept her from making even the tiniest of movement, much less action that is perfect. Her honest, vulnerable blog inspired me to say it again, “let’s kick perfectionism to the curb and celebrate that we are enough!”
If asking you to completely give up your perfectionism is too much, why don’t we aim at being perfect at being imperfect? Let’s nail that…my gut says we will get more done. And feel a hell of a lot better. Sounds perfect, right?