Perfectionism can seem innocent enough, on the surface. "I just want to do a good job," we tell ourselves -- and what's wrong with that? Well, if you're here, it's because perfectionism is in fact holding you back, keeping you paralyzed, standing in the way of what you know you have to contribute. And even if you're able to get things done despite it, it may be quietly corroding your sense of confidence and freedom, without you really noticing.
To get free of perfectionism, we need to first ask what's driving it -- what's underneath it. Anne Lamott has a worthy theory:
"I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” (Bird by Bird, p. 28)
Another hidden driver of perfectionism to consider is an underlying belief that you’re not lovable intrinsically, you have to earn it by doing everything perfectly. If this rings true for you, you can drill down further by investigating where you got this belief:
“Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here—and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.” (p. 32)
All of Lamott's nonfiction is a raw but poetic, earnest but funny, testament to her embrace of imperfection in her own life. You can get a sense of her style on this page.
More recently, Brené Brown has become famous for her writing on vulnerability, courage, and resilience, in books like Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and The Gifts of Imperfection. She offers a free download of one of
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