Accepting imperfection aids in letting go, which is what this post is about.
The media preaches perfection: the perfect weight, the newest car, the sculped abs, the House Beautiful living room, the millionaire’s vacation. Fuels discontent so you will as you seek an impossible goal.
Remember the Twisted Thinking Post? Raising the Goal Post was one and is part of seeking an unobtainable perfection. Twenty years ago, I was sent to a management training that preached raise your expectations of your employees a millimeter at a time. Sounded good.
When I asked what about the employees who reached their limit in jumping higher ability, I was ignored. Not a question the trainer – from Columbia University’s Business School wanted to address. Remember denial, another item on the twisted thinking post? Operating in the refusal to answer my question.
Those who supervise line workers and who are honest with themselves and others, know we all have limits. The Laurence J. Peter‘ s Peter Principle speaks well to that fact. That principle? According to wikipedia the Peter Principle… is a concept in management theory in which the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in his or her current role rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.”
One of the steps to emotional fitness is dealing with the fact that no one is perfect. Painful because it taps into childhood’s reservoir of shame.
Children struggle with shame when they come to realize they are powerless over some things but quite capable of doing the unthinkable – between two and three. The unthinkable according to Jerome Kagan, human development specialist, is part of the story of Cain and Abel. Jealousy leading to murder.
For a three year old the unthinkable is the desire to do away with the people that keep you from doing what you want. The only ones you have power over are younger siblings and small animals. Kagan points out a strong counter emotion is needed to keep from acting on violent impulses, hence why shame emerges at this particular age and stage.
Also at that age any failure to do something perfectly creates shame, not being good enough. Shame is all about having to be perfect and fearing other people’s response when you are imperfect.
What to do Three tips.
First tip: Practice imperfection. Think good enough, when obsessed with getting anything a bit more perfect. Use “Good enough” as a mantra.
Second tip: Rate how good any effort needs to be. Here’s the Rating Scale poster.
Third tip: Challenge delusions of perfection on the media and in real life. Look for twisted thinking in all media. Look for people seeking perfection and say gently, “Good enough seem best in this situation” or something to that effect.
And yes, however, you apply me advice when it works for you it is good enough although less than perfect all the time for all people. As some wise people note about advice “Take what you find helpful, leave the rest.”
When professional help is needed. As with physcial fitness, emotional fitness exists on a continuum. Seeking perfection can be taken to an extreme. Two extremes that need professional help need to be recognized.
The first? Religious fanaticism. If you feel less than perfect and deeply shamed by that fact, you often seek help controlling your imperfection in the practice of your faith. You hope the more perfectly you pray or obey, the more your darker urges will be held in check. As the revelations of priestly abuse fully demonstrate, religion does not always protect one from sinning. When faith does not control baser instincts, professional help is needed.
Moreover, when we push our fanaticism on others it becomes a justification of hatred and violence. Another time professional help is needed and by not just people, but some countries and cultures in our world.
Second extreme: Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD). Think handwashing that leaves your hands red and raw. Think not being perfectly sure, you locked your car door and checking not once but hundreds of times. Professional help is needed.
First tip: Say “Good try” twice as often as you say “Try harder.”
Second tip: If you child is engaged in competitive sports, counter The Winning is everything mentality with “Having fun is winning even when you lose.”
Third tip: Teach rating scales early on.
Fourth tip: With those moving into the changing thoughts of adolescence engage in conversations about what matters, sweating the small stuff.
Fifth tip: Children of all ages can be caught up in perfectionism. Be alert to the possiblity a child is caught by OCD. Here is a handout, I used when teaching
DAILY PROMPT – Calling Uncle Bob Have you ever faced a difficult situation when you had to choose between sorting it out yourself, or asking someone else for an easy fix? What did you choose — and would you make the same choice today?
Asking for help means facing you own inadequacies. Not easy for any of us, particularly when infected by the perfectionism viruse. Seeking help, however, is a better path toward the good life.
My best help has always come from those who have been where I want to go, and offer suggestions about what worked for them without thinking it will work for all.
All the handouts and poster coaches for this course are being posted at the store so you can download them for free.
Apologies if you cannot find one. I am a Jill of all in this business, so some things take longer than others. If something used here isn’t posted yet, you will find lots of other offerings including inspirational quotes or more EFTI exercises. In time all will be posted.
LINKS OF INTEREST
- OCD (iocdf,org)
- OCD in children (psychcentral.com)
- Radical Acceptance (dbtselfhelp.com)
- Emotional Intelligence (en.wikipedia.org)
The Honor Your Strength Exercise a Letting Go tool to counter perfectionism.
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Thank you and work at staying strong until next time,. I work hard to do the same as life is often difficult but staying strong lets me find the good.