The First Step in Bill Wilson’s addiction program is for the member to admit his or her powerlessness and that life has become unmanageable.
The “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection” is perfectionism.
In the past, I have recognized and acknowledged I suffer from perfectionism. Those of us who have the disease, in many cases, have it because of things in our past that drove us to demand perfection from ourselves to prove worthiness, probably because someone we needed approval or love from refused to give it. Or it was modeled to us at an early age, by someone who needed approval or love from someone who refused to give it to them. Or it comes from being really good at things, one of those really talented, smart people that things come easily for and so they expect no less from others. Or maybe it just seemed like a really good idea to practice and so a person just starts. I don’t know. I just know when a person has it, it is a problem.
Of course, a high standard can be nice. It can produce quality results. I certainly get that. Remember? I already acknowledged I suffer from it. Perfectionism makes you look good. Never lazy. Always reliable. Productive. Driven.
But I also have learned, you miss a lot of good things. Both in yourself and in others. The people I know who haven’t yet recognized they suffer from perfectionism are missing a lot of beauty and goodness by dismissing that which is less than perfect. By demanding perfection of themselves, shaming themselves if they miss the mark or driving themselves to the snapping point in order to achieve perfection in any given effort, they can’t just be, can’t just enjoy the moment as it is.
When you’re a perfectionist, you can’t see the beauty in something that isn’t perfectly experienced; you can’t enjoy the thing that isn’t perfectly created; you miss the delight in a moment that will never come again because it wasn’t delivered exactly like it was “supposed” to be; you dismiss the lovely in a person because, well, they just aren't lovely and they don’t measure up to your expectations.
I’m a recovering perfectionist. I practice looking for the good, the beauty, the lovely in the ordinary, the flawed. I practice because it’s so hard to do. But as I do practice, and sometimes succeed, I see new things. I enjoy moments, creations, and even people I would normally overlook. And with this practice, life becomes richer, more full, a little bit messy, and really, just a whole lot better.
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