Stop pursuing perfection

If there is one thing I have learned in my recovery process is to stop pursuing perfection. No, it doesn’t mean I’m giving myself a chance to be mediocre; it’s giving myself a chance to breathe.

Very often I find myself overwhelmed by things as common as everyday life. And I come to a complete paralysis: need to clean, to work on the website, to take the kid to school, pick him up, dress him, feed him, call the plumber, respond to the teacher’s notes, etc. You get the picture. Everyday life things that need to get done, and your junk mail somehow keeps piling up.

Perfection is elusive at best

Why does this happen? It took me years to figure it out, but in case you were wondering I’ll share it with you: “I’m afraid of things not getting done 100% right, or at least see them through from beginning to end.” So, with this in mind, I am able to tell myself that I’m not going to let the anxiety-provoking perfection to take over and take control over what I can.

I probably can’t go through all the junk mail, but I can definitely do about half of it. And this is perfectly fine. I don’t have to see it through from beginning to end today. So I will address the rest at a later time. Right now it’s more important to go pick up the kid from school and prepare something to eat. The junk mail can wait. It’s ok to not finish the junk mail.  It’s okay not to be perfect.

The never-ending quest for perfection

stop pursuing perfection - benches in the fall

benches in the fall

Perfection is unattainable, but here we are, trying to attain it.  Because, sometimes, the interminable to-do list makes you think that you just have to see the project through, or you’ll just have to keep adding it to the list, and never finish. It’s ok. I can hear the voices in my head telling me that I can’t even finish what I started and what a loser I am for not being able to finish what I start.

What I have to keep in mind, though, is that my physical and mental conditions pretty much force me to do things differently, and feeling overwhelmed doesn’t help. I’m not a loser.  I just need to stop pursuing perfection.  I just have to keep the eye on the prize. Even if takes three days to sort the mountain of junk mail, or put away all the clean clothes.

I can’t tell you how pursuing perfection has overwhelmed and paralyzed me, but now that I can accept myself in imperfection, reminding myself that nobody and nothing is perfect (except God, but I won’t get into that here), I’m able to get more stuff done, and that, ironically, is more perfect than being overwhelmed and paralyzed.

Simple New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.

1. To give myself permission to have a normal relationship with food.
2. To not overwhelm myself.
3. To do more of what I enjoy.

That’s it. Simple, right?
They could all be summed up into “focusing on my wellness”.

You could make the case that I have already been doing that, but this time, I’m tackling it with a plan. I am not going to fix everything that needs fixing. I’m just going to do what I identified last year as my top three steps to wellness.

First, After at least 4 years of unhealthy diets, giving myself permission to have a normal relationship with food, is just going to be very hard, but I owe it to myself, to stay well.

In addition, it seems like every day I bite off more than I can chew, and it doesn’t work out. I get overwhelmed and then not finish what I started, eventually having a million projects started, and none seen to completion. I recognize that I have my limitations, and limits to how much I can do, and I am going to respect those limits.

Finally, I need to do more of what I enjoy. I don’t do enough of what makes me happy. This is the year I do more of what I enjoy. I’ll schedule it, and follow through, within my limits.

This year, I will respect myself and my limits, and I will do more of what I enjoy. I am working on a plan in which I will take things one day at a time, minute at a time if need be, keeping my three goals in mind.

Update in 2018:  I still struggle with this, but I am doing better overall.