Tag Archive: perfectionism

I think that as people, we have the tendency to doubt our own excellence. Our whole lives, our whole society in fact, is constructed around this. Media does not support a positive self-image— even those of us who are rail-skinny (coughmecough) don’t seem to fit the ideal. The economy seems to be doing nothing more successfully than stripping us of value— in our bank accounts, in our careers, in our own sense of accomplishment and self-worth. And the overabundance of social media and distractions are robbing our face to face relationships of meaningful connection. Just think, honestly— how long could you last in a blackout?

The most insidious of all of these is the blow to our individual and collective self-esteem. As the FlyLady Marla Cilley writes, it’s difficult enough to hold yourself to an unrealistic standard imposed on you by others without adding your own perfectionism to the soup. Really, isn’t that the trouble, when looked at from a wider lens? We are never happy because we are never perfect.

Like many of you, money has been a struggle and a source of worry in my home over the last year. To help alleviate this, I began searching for bartending and waitressing jobs. This was work that I have been fully qualified to do since I was eighteen, and yet, with MORE experience under my belt, I can’t find a job.

My husband and two friends of mine shared some insight— while I had more experience, I was not the person that I was at eighteen. I dressed differently, carried myself with more dignity, expected more from my life. Their comments forced me to consider my beliefs in a different light. Of course, I thought that if I wasn’t getting hired, it was because I was defective. I thought that maybe I wasn’t attractive enough anymore to work in that environment. Truth is, I had just grown up. Wasn’t that exactly what I wanted?

Of course it was—until I began comparing myself to a different standard.

The insidiousness of perfectionism is that there isn’t an ideal or a “right path” to follow. You make up something in your head based on what you think someone else has and then you beat yourself up for not having it. It’s probably much more desirable to be seen as competent than sexy, and honestly, I am both competent and sexy. Until I start letting people who don’t know me determine my worth.

I realized that part, if not all, of my challenges with my personal appearance come from not appreciating what it is that I DO have. I have not been dressing for MY body—instead, I have been dressing for the body that I wish I had. I haven’t been pursuing what I love— I have been trying to find success by chasing someone else’s dreams.

What has made me sexy over the years has been my cheesiest quality— my passion and excitement, and as a result, my confidence and happiness. It is absolutely the most attractive and important thing about anyone. We define who we are based on what we do. “I’m a writer. I’m a yoga teacher. I love to sing. I speak Elvish.” It makes sense, then, that what we do on a day to day basis is of the utmost importance.

How do we carve out time, then, for the things that make us attractive, even when we feel we have no time?

  1. Feel beautiful. Wear clothes that fit and are flattering. Wash your face, do your hair. Get your nails done— if you like that stuff. I know I can’t make eye contact with people when my eyebrows aren’t done.
  2. Reduce guilt. Do what you say you’re going to do. Procrastination and the guilt and worry that arise from it are not attractive. If it can be done in less than one minute, do it then.
  3. Make time for yourself. No one else will make you more important than you make you, and no one will take you more seriously than you take yourself. And seriously (I can’t say this emphatically enough) DON’T BE A %$^#!^#@ MARTYR. Martyrs suck and they get killed. No one cares how long it’s been since you had “any time to yourself.” Take it! Take time! Arghh!

This list is just as much to remind me as it is to (hopefully) help you. So any pointers? What makes you feel beautiful and whole?



Five Guidelines for the New Year

Happy 2012!!!!

So, I wanted to kick off this year on a high note by chronicling some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

1. Know thyself.

Uttered by the famed sage Socrates as the definition of wisdom, knowing oneself is the key to why we are all here.  Life is a game in which you first figure out who you are, and then launch yourself into the equally daunting task of figuring out who you’re meant to be.   There is nothing to be gained in forcing yourself to be who you think you should be if you’re really not.  It seems like it would be an easy thing, but truth be told, there are some voices that are louder than our own, and tuning them out is not easy.

2. Good ideas are fleeting- start on them as soon as possible.

Paraphrased from the John C. Maxwell book in my bathroom, it bears notice that most good ideas never come to fruition simply because people never get around to following through on them.  It happened to da Vinci, it happened to Clinton, and it has happened to me.  If you have a great idea, take the first step immediately or plan a time to do it.  It may change your life, or someone else’s.

3. If it can be done in less than one minute, do it now.

This one is a real game changer when put into practice.  It is at least fifty percent of the literature available on time management.  This simple idea will revolutionize your home, organizational skills, relationships, finances—no kidding.  Try it.  It’s one of the best things I’ve EVER heard—I really can’t over-sell this one.

4. You can do anything for fifteen minutes/You can do anything fifteen minutes at a time.

Some people will not notice the difference between these two ideas.  The first one means that anything in this world that is not fatal can be tolerated for a set amount of time.  The second is more poignant.  Anything in this world can be broken up and managed in fifteen minute intervals.  You want to find the secret to anything you want in life?  Anything impossible or overwhelming is insultingly easy once broken into fifteen minute bites.

5.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

This one is near and dear to my heart—as a perfectionist, I have actually sacrificed getting things done at all for the sake of doing them perfectly.  I have accomplished a fraction of what I deserve or could have achieved because of fear and timing—which is all perfectionism really is.  But I recognize that at this point in my life, bigger and bigger opportunities are slipping away because I am afraid of not pursing them the right way.  The fact is, in life, the only way to pursue anything is by laying it all out there—by not being afraid to look stupid and embracing the fact that you could completely fudge it all up.

These are the things that I’m keeping in mind as I launch into my 2012.  I am going to take chances, make changes, stop being perfect, fuck stuff up, be a little irresponsible, and basically, enjoy what it is to be twenty-two in New York City.  I’ve always loved the fact that people saw me as responsible—and I am.  I know that there’s only so far from that I will go.  But I want to start enjoying my life and stop trying to be everything to everyone.  I want to let my hair down and take chances, and most of all, stop giving a crap what everyone thinks of me.  And you know what?  I think that in doing so, I would actually be happier and ultimately more likeable.

So this year, I chase my own dreams, and my own happiness.  Even if I make a little mess along the way.

Photo courtesy of MusicThinkTank.com.

One thing that I’m really working hard on drilling into my head is that things don’t always have to be perfect to get done. I’m constantly looking for the perfect or the best way to do things, and as a result I get very upset when I or anyone else realizes my shortcomings. This obsession with perfection and this inability to accept my own flaws has affected every area of my life, from my relationships and friendships to my job and my Buddhist practice.

I’ve been making a lot of interesting realizations in this area since I began the FlyLady website’s daily routines and since I started my Byakuren training. I have a lot of issues that go hand in hand with my perfectionism, and I realize that many times, it will stop me from making any type of headway in an area that troubles me.  Challenging the things that make me who I am, like my habits and tendencies, and putting myself in a position to care for and look after other (like Byakuren), makes me hyper-aware of just how deep some of these beliefs run. 

Therefore (realizing that I may have said this before), I’m trying to teach myself to be more aware of my strengths as well as my weaknesses, and focus on developing my strengths so that I always have something to be proud of, and at the same time, I will always have a direction to grow in.   Most people are far too easy on themselves, but it’s much more difficult to strike a balance when you’re too hard on yourself.  Our society rewards those who strive to develop themselves, who work two or three jobs, who spin plates, who can do and have it all.  This, however, is not a healthy ideal, because it doesn’t show the sacrifice involved in working incessantly, leading a life of “never enough.”

After getting my first job, I quickly learned that I was something of a workaholic.  I craved the sense of achievement and value I felt in being able to point to something that was better because I had been there.  I realized that often, I cared more and tried harder than anyone else.  I still do.  That attitude and enthusiasm has both defined and devastated me, leaving me wondering if somethimes, it wasn’t better to play it close to the vest.

I think that this is why Byakuren drew me in; I have spent my whole adult life serving others, helping behind the scenes, knowing that I was trying harder and more committed than anyone else.  In Byakuren, however, most of the other young women take their commitment and their training just as seriously.  Rather than being cheered by this, I was resentful, feeling as if I wasn’t shining as brightly next to so many stars. 

Now, I’m struggling to understand my own value, doing my best to forge the belief that those other young women are not perfect, and neither am I, and that doesn’t make any of us any less capable.  I have too easy of a time spotting my own flaws and comparing myself to others, and I want to truly believe in my own worth, as it stands and not as it measures up to some imaginary standard.  Obviously, I’m a long way from this; I may never overcome it entirely.  But I am working on a plan to help me see my own beauty and strength.

I encourage everyone to do the same.  Let’s win together!

Photo courtesy of GreyThinking.com.