I’ve done a couple of posts so far on why perfection is so awful. But I wanted to share this very good piece from Salon by Erica Larsen writing about her own experience battling with it:
It’s this loss of connection with the self, I think, that really makes perfectionists so prone to mental illness. Perfectionists’ self-esteem is always yo-yoing between self-importance and self-loathing. We hold ourselves to higher standards than we demand of the rest of the world, yet we refuse to acknowledge anything less than a full-on victory. I’ve seen this same contradiction in the rooms of recovery. Even though addiction causes people to be extremely selfish, many addicts acknowledge that they’re harder on themselves than on anyone else.
Can we have high standards without being perfectionists? Maybe, but it can seem as daunting as stopping at one Oreo. Being okay with “good enough” takes daily practice, daily surrender. Perfectionism is really the opposite of acceptance, which is one of the keys to recovery from anything. No matter how many times we say or hear the Serenity Prayer, it doesn’t come easy.
There are, of course, things we perfectionists can do to ease up on ourselves. Hokemeyer urges his patients to see that “releasing their grip on perfection, if even ever so slightly,” will allow them to have “the peace of mind, connection with the world and a grounding that they’ve hungered for their whole lives.” But I know from dealing with my own mind that it’s one thing to learn to accept things that are obviously out of our hands, like traffic or the weather but much harder to accept and forgive our own mistakes. Still, the truth is that we can’t change those either, and we also can’t change the fact that we’re going to make more no matter how hard we try. Whatever the Higher Power that guides us through our recovery might be, it’s sure as hell not us. And if we’re not God, how can we expect to be perfect? Regardless of what Steps Six and Seven say about removing our shortcomings, recovery won’t make anybody perfect. Nothing can. And that’s not only okay, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.