Confessions of a Closet Perfectionist

This morning a picture crossed my Facebook page that caught my attention. It had a list of the months of the year, where you looked up the month you were born and it listed a defining quality of your personality. Being born in October, I was anxious to see what it said.

October = "Born the perfectionists"

What?! The other months had things like nicest, sexiest, sweetest (although February was "craziest"). I  was expecting "flexible, peace-maker, easy to get along with" or something like that. Perfectionist was the complete opposite of what I was thinking. I really don't expect perfection from anyone. I'm an optimist, and I know that we're all human, and no one's perfect. I believe that. I spend plenty of time laughing at my own mistakes and recognizing it's how we grow, and not making a big deal of the mistakes that other people make. My experience has been that "perfectionists" tend to judge and look down upon others and their imperfections. I work really hard to be the opposite of that. Honestly, I think perfectionism is a very stressful way to live. And I think most of the people who know me would agree that I have a pretty positive outlook on life, so what's with this "perfectionist" thing? I chalked it up to a goofy little Facebook thing and went on about my day.

While running my errands, I began thinking about this long research paper I've been working on for my herbalist class (it needs to be 40-60 pages in length). I was thinking that I hadn't gotten as far as I had wanted with it and it's due next week. I went through a laundry list in my head of how I could have better spent my time, what better resources I could have used than what I have, and had I really put all the effort into it I could have up to now?

And all of a sudden, "Born the perfectionist" comes ringing through my head.

OMG. I resemble that remark! Now that's just perfectly ridiculous.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm forgiving of other people and their imperfections, and yet I am expecting  myself to be flawless, have done more, better, etc. If someone else had told me about research they had just unearthed and obscure little things they had found that would add some rich history to their paper, I would have been impressed. If someone else had explained they needed a little more time to make sure they understood the new research and figure out how to incorporate it so that their paper flowed well and was accurate, I would have understood and been supportive. But instead I judged myself to be not good enough, wondering how I could have been better and gotten this done more timely instead of seeing the value of what I'd already accomplished, not to mention the amount of learning that already took place.

Oh boy. This was an eye-opener. I really didn't know this was how I saw myself. That might explain a lot about my life. *Sigh* How many times have I seen that quote that the things you regret are the ones you didn't do? I'm pretty sure that perfectionism gets in the way of the doing. Or at least I'm pretty sure that's been the case in my life.

Perfectionism is just another form of fear. It was lurking beneath the surface, rearing it's ugly head where it didn't belong. And it was aimed at a place that I couldn't see - at me. It's easy to tell when I'm being critical or judgmental of others. It's harder to see when you do it to yourself.

So for all of us born in October and all the other "closet perfectionists" out there, I say this:

We are all perfect, as we are. In our jammies or our dress clothes, with our hair askew or primped, dishes in our sinks or spotless counters, driving a BMW or an old pickup.

What matters is that we show up in our lives, for who and what is most important to us, doing the things we love. We get up every day and give it our all, whatever "all" may be that day. Some days will be AWESOME, where we go running out to meet the day. Other days start off as a long walk to the coffee pot, followed by a series of challenges. Sometimes we'll trip and fall, and other times we'll soar. We're gonna make mistakes, but it's probably better to at least try to fly than to stand on the edge and wonder what it's like. At the end of each day, if we've given everything we could, then there's no regrets.

And for all that we didn't get done or mistakes that were made, we must forgive ourselves and let them go. Tomorrow is another day. And if we don't get another tomorrow, then at least we gave it our all today. I can't think of anything more perfect than that.


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