"Perfectionism is Fear in a Dress" Elizabeth Gilbert
The topic of this week’s Blog is one that is close to my heart.
I am constantly worried about making mistakes and not being perfect.
I regret things I’ve said.
I wish I had made different decisions.
I think I could have done a better job in any given situation.
And this is super uncomfortable in my body.
And on top of that the worrying and regretting take away from my being present in any given situation.
And when I’m not present, I make more mistakes that I then regret later.
What a crazy vicious cycle!
I recently came across something that is very helpful for this and it has to do with perfectionism and the illusion of certainty.
Usually I find the fact that certainty and control are just illusions to be unsettling and scary.
I like thinking that if I makes plans, they will go they way I intend them to.
I like assuming that mostly I know what my day will look like, and that life will continue on just as it always has.
The idea that these are just illusions is really uncomfortable.
But in the book “The Blind spot effect How to stop missing what’s right in front of you” by Kelly Boys, I learned that there is a real upside to consciously acknowledging the truth that the only certainty in life is uncertainty.
And that is letting go of the notion of perfectionism.
How can I possibly expect to be perfect when there is no certainty in life?
I can try to make good decisions but there are so many factors that I can’t predict and foresee.
Just knowing this makes me feel a huge sense of relief.
I don’t have to be so perfect.
Because I can’t anyways!
Doesn’t that feel good?
We don’t need to strive for perfection because it’s impossible!
(As I write this it seems so obvious – of course I’m not perfect. No human is. But for some reason there is a part of me that didn’t seem to get that memo. It still unconsciously believes that I need to be perfect and when I do make a mistake it punishes me relentlessly. It’s agony to make a mistake isn’t it?)
But why do I strive for perfection?
Because somehow a part of me thought that being perfect is what was demanded of me.
But again because of uncertainty, perfection is impossible!
That’s great news!!!
What does being perfect have to do with chronic pain?
Trying to be perfect keeps our brain in a hypervigilant state.
It’s constantly on guard to make the right decision and perfectly avoid the wrong decision.
When the brain is in a hypervigilant state it is on the lookout for danger, and it is more likely to interpret sensations as pain.
When the brain is in a more relaxed state it feels safer and is more likely to interpret sensations as just sensations.
So how does it feel in your body to think “It’s impossible to be perfect because there is no certainty in life. No matter how diligent I am, I will not be able to be perfect.”
I feel a huge sense of relief.
It lets me off the hook.
So, let’s see perfectionism for what it is.
A fear that is based on a fundamental error that there is certainty in life and that it’s possible to always choose correctly.
“Perfection is just fear wearing a dress” as very wise Elizabeth Gilbert said.