What can you be imperfect around?

3 Minute Read: Perfectionism, mindfulness, mental health, self-care.

For many of my clients, addiction to perfectionism is a painful, even debilitating struggle. Personally too – wow, do I know this one.

Sitting before my laptop one recent evening, late-day shadows starting to fall, I opened my to-do list and contemplated home and work projects.

Nothing was particularly pressing. Spending time on any one of them could have been easy, light. Or I could have taken the evening off.

Instead, I defaulted to “perfectionist doing mode.” Before long, I’d turned small, simple to-do’s into elaborate undertakings.

Sometimes the pull to do 110 percent in all things is fantastic, exciting and fun.

Other times, not so much.

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For one, going above and beyond in ALL things for EVERYONE just isn’t possible.

To do things fully, in a fully present way, we have to choose – not only what to do, but where to let up. Where to be good enough rather than perfect.

For another, there’s usually something else we’re stuffing down or ignoring – something beneath the surface longing for attention. Fear, pain or sadness, perhaps. Maybe the belief: “I’m not enough.”

If we keep doing what we’re doing with a clenched grip and without pause, we’re practicing profound unkindness toward that thing needing attention – to that part of ourselves.

Not because it’s “bad” or we’re “bad,” but because sitting with it feels so uncomfortable. Far easier (and more familiar) to stay busy, tackling to-do’s with perfectionist fervour.

Some part of us is trying to fix things – including ourselves. Problem is, we’re neglecting the real wound. And, with all that perfectionist doing, we’re perpetuating a painful, debilitating cycle.

How do I work with this?

With clients and myself, one place is practicing purposeful imperfection, asking:

What is it okay to be imperfect around? Where is it okay to be “good enough”?

The “purposeful” part is important. It’s the difference between imperfect and sloppy. It’s a difference that has to do with care.

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If you struggle with “good-enough-ness,” I encourage you to give purposeful imperfection a try.

Ask yourself…

  • How might you do a little less with the same (or more) care?

  • Where could you bring a softer touch?

  • What is it okay to be imperfect around?

And when you’re ready…

  • Is this sort of practice – the practice of “good enough” – uncomfortable? How so?

  • What’s all that “perfectionist doing” really about anyway?

Get curious. Try easy.

Hold it all – especially your heart – with tenderness.

(And please share your experiences, if you’d like!)

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With steadiness + ease.

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