Perfectionism is a well documented problem for many people. An underlying restlessness that provokes you again and again to be dissatisfied with what you are or with who you are. A constant and painful striving to be something else, something perceived to be better or greater than this inadequate person you see when you think of yourself. You look at your life and instead of noticing what you have achieved (however small) or your qualities (however undeveloped), all you see are flaws and problems and precious little to feel good about. Spiralling into a desolate mood, constantly trying to reassess the situation to find a pathway from the despair you only find more and more faults and the descent becomes a free-fall as you head off to find some respite under the duvet or in a bottle.
I am sure that even though the details may be different, many of us will recognise this toxic pathway, if not from current experience, at least from not too distant memory. Stuff that kind of perfection, I want nothing more to do with it!
A while back I decided to look at the term again. In the dictionary there are all sorts of words which define perfect: correct; precise; faultless; unblemished. When you are a creature like myself: evolved from apes; bombarded with adverts which speak directly to my reptilian brain to make me buy stuff I don’t need; expected to know what my life and purpose are and to be making a solid contribution to society; fed conflicting stories about reality by whichever political group wants my loyalty; etc etc. I think being correct, precise, faultless and unblemished is quite a big ask. I am a baboon with a shirt on. Expect a bit of a mess please!
However, this is perhaps where we can find a new ‘perfection’. Instead of expecting perfect behaviour, perfect manners, perfect dress-sense, perfect exam results, perfect sobriety, perfect birthday presents for all the family, perfect parenting, perfect children. Let’s find a ‘perfect’ perspective. I think it is CORRECT to expect every human I meet to have flaws. I think it is PRECISE to know that a wise perspective which includes flaws and qualities is a perfect human achievement. I think it is a FLAWLESS practise to forgive each other our grubbinesses, again and again and again. I believe this view of humanity and each other is UNBLEMISHED in and of itself. This is the perfection I strive for, a perfection of kindness, a perfection of forgiveness, a perfection of understanding. And do you know what? When I don’t reach it, when I fail again and again to completely relate to myself and others in this way, I can choose to understand, be kind to myself and forgive. Perfection in this sense is a growing, a walking and a warming.
In the counselling room, two humans meet. You are a good-enough client and I am a good-enough counsellor. Let us together find some freedom from ridiculous expectations and inhuman standards…