The Crippling Pursuit of Perfection

What is perfection really?  It is a stubborn mistress that we court, but are never quite found good enough for the Ball.  Perfectionism is different from striving to be better, because that is a competition with ourselves.  Perfectionism is more about proving/convincing to yourself and others that you are good enough. It’s a stifling and oppressive way to live life.  It is often much safer to not go for it, and say I am not going to even bother because it won’t be good enough for insert here (usually yourself when you really dissect the reason).  The threat of rejection and disappointment are far greater than the reward of showing the progress of discovery.  This is some of the most self-destructive things people can do to themselves, not including bodily harm.  The void of rejection catapulted my self-esteems issues even further because I didn’t think I was even worthy of presenting my skills if it wasn’t perfect.

barriers-to-love

Self-Pressure
Perfectionism is like having to pee in the middle of the night.  Stay with me here, I agree it’s an odd analogy.  You are slightly uncomfortable with the pressure, but you are so warm and cozy in your bed you hate to get up.  You’d much rather stay under the safety of the blanket until it becomes too much and you give in.  Except there is no safety blanket, and eventually you choose to show yourself and your talents to the terrifying world.  Or you pee in the bed, and shrink into self-loathing.

Take this entry for example, I had so many good ideas and lines when I started the concept, but I can’t think of a single one.  And they were good. You know what happened to those ideas I had five minutes before writing this?  I said to myself, “ooo, I like where this is going.  Let me get downstairs and get settled into writing mode before starting to write this entry.” POOF, gone.  I could have written them down where I was, but I didn’t.  I am going to publish this anyway to prove a point because this is an important topic for me.

Judgment
Perfectionism isn’t really about presenting your perfect work.  It is using it to hide behind your excuses, self-doubt, and flaws so people don’t know your vulnerabilities and insecurities.  To have your “best” self always on display, scared of being judged of not being good enough is a crippling mindset that weighs heavily on every decision one makes.  Every decision leads back to “am I good enough to reveal this?”  It’s much easier to show something that you believe is your best effect and have them bring judgment, than it is to show a work in progress and have it ripped to shreds (e.g. first draft of a paper).  It’s the same with my Arbonne business, photography, writing, paddling, and now art.   I used to get ashamed if I swam (it’s where you fall out of your boat in a rapid) while paddling, but it has a become a source of pride because it means I tried something and pushed myself.  Fail your way forward.

Roy and I hitting a rock - hard - in the rapid. Good times. Photograph taken by Ohiopyle Adventure Photography. We kept going.

Roy and I hitting a rock – hard – in the Cucumber Rapid on Yough River.  Photograph taken by Ohiopyle Adventure Photography. We kept going.

Self-Validation
The projects don’t have to be physical in nature; they can be emotional as well.  Or the most vulnerable of all, when it is the combination of both.  The vulnerability of art for the world to see, which is always an express of an emotion of some kind, oftentimes gives me the most pause in sharing it.  And being completely vulnerable with all of you, my latest self-discovery is how much I like to doodle.  I like drawing the lines, the shapes, and all of it coming together to make something kind of beautiful in its own unique way.  Art is terrifying to me, so this is a huge discovery.

doodle

One of the hardest things I have worked on in the last 4.5 years is to make an effort to kick my self-judgment to the curb.  It means you have to confront yourself, which is another entry altogether and discover some of your inner demons.   Be real with those closest to you, and I was surprised by the outcome of this.  In my experience, I discovered those who truly love me for who I am becoming and embracing my true self.  I also discovered those who will always see the old me, and who have a hard time accepting the self-confident version of myself.  It can be a brutal wake up call. Give perfectionism an eviction notice from your mind and soul, and be a vigilante when it comes to visit.

Uninvisible

I’ve
led
my
life
Making
myself
be
Invisible.

Letting
others
take
Credit,
while
I was
in the
Shadows.

it was to
Fit in,
to Belong

Because
even the
Illusion of
Belonging
was better
than no semblance
at all.

It was
an
Empty
hope

I kept
myself
small,
Hidden

to
Everyone.

Until

The
Painful
Self-discovery
of
My
Own

Worthiness.

Proved
me
Wrong.

I am
not
Perfect.

I am
still
Worth
Knowing.

I
AM
Not
Be
Invisible.

I
Am
a
Force.

I
am
Enough.

Just as
I
Am.

Old Demons and Battling

Everyone has demons, even if you don’t acknowledge them.  I did this for a long time.  The reinforced concrete walls around my entire being kept me well insulated from any feeling I could have possibly had, with few exceptions.

Photograph taken by Pete Kreiger. A moment of quiet reflection.

Photograph taken by Pete Krieger.

Vulnerability, alcohol, food, or just self-destructive behavior in general (staying out too late, not exercising, etc.) are a short list of examples of demons.  Unfortunately, demons are often insidious in nature and rarely have a neon sign saying “demon alert”.  It sneaks up and gradually brings people down, and to where they fall back into old, self-destructive habits and thoughts.  A friend of mine says, “that is the devil trying to keep you small.  Don’t you DARE let him.”
personal style

I have worked very hard through personal growth to keep those demons at bay.  It has been a struggle to recognize them, and change my mental state into one where I believe I deserve to be successful and happy.  I have gotten good at realizing what I need to do to keep that positive mental state.  Occasionally, however, I slip.  I fall back into old habits, demons, and self-destructive behaviors and thoughts.

This was one of those months for me, and it happens to everyone.  The important thing is to self-evaluate, reflect, and kick yourself (or have someone else do it) in the ass to get back to your TRUE self.  Your true self DESERVES to be happy and successful.  The old story you have in your head that says you don’t and/or can’t is bullshit.  You are ENOUGH.