When Good Enough is Good Enough
The Perfection Trap
Are you a perfectionist? Do you find yourself frequently embroiled in tasks that are endless as you strive to make things perfect?
I am a recovering perfectionist, and I've been learning how to let go a bit and to let "good enough" be an acceptable goal once in a while. One can waste an enormous amount of time, and also cause undue stress and anxiety when they get caught in the perfection trap. The concept that something can be perfect is the first thing that needs to go! There is no perfect and we all know this. Somehow, knowing that perfection does not exist does not seem to stop this little dance we find ourselves in. We seem to get lost in the notion of an ideal that drives us to keep plugging away when sanity would have had us stop long ago.
Explore with me some techniques to free yourself from the perfection trap and to still feel productive and accomplished.
I realize that asking you to aim lower, not higher does not seem like very good advice. But, in terms of trying to accept a standard that is less than perfection, aiming lower might just make sense.
Normally I live my life pretty moderately and that is the advice I share with others. By that I mean that like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, there is too hot, too cold and just right. Just right is fine with me. It may not be the Golden Goose with the Golden Egg, but it also is not the joker in the deck either. It's that comfortable place between no good and the best possible outcome.
When I was a youngster, my family frequented a department store who offered three versions of a product. They would have their top of the line item as the "Best:, then the next best product would be the "Better" option and the standard product would be considered "Good". As a family we seemed to always strive for the middle, or "better" option. My Dad was a practical man, and to that end did not throw money away. So, it was reasoned that to go bottom of the line was perhaps not good enough; it might break early and cause him to have to purchase another item like it too soon. The best option was often just too expensive to go for, so it was felt that the better option would be just right. Not as wonderful perhaps as the best, but more enduring than the good.
So it is in life. We can always make the effort to do the best, but sometimes reality dictates that we settle for the better choice instead. Only when circumstances dictate do we settle for just the good.
An example would be buying new clothes for work. I have a budget and I want to look as nice as I can for the best price, while not sacrificing quality. I go shopping and I find 3 pairs of black slacks that I want. The first pair is very expensive, but very well made. They fit beautifully and are very flattering, but that price tag is giving me palpitations! The second option is made well and also fit well, but I can see that they aren't quite as expensively crafted. But, there price is much more in keeping with my budget. The last option is simply good; they are made well enough and fit reasonably well, but the craftsmanship appears pretty poor and it seems they will probably not last as long as either of the other two options.
Now, I want to look my absolute best for work! But, I also have a limited budget to spend. I decide on the middle or "better" option because while not the most wonderfully made, or best fabric they fit me and I can afford them. They aren't made cheaply so it is the best choice I can make while still falling short of the bar of "perfection".
There are endless examples of how we choose something less than our ideal in day to day life. Let's examine some ways we fall prey to the Perfection bug in our daily choices toward self improvement of a more spiritual nature.
Be the Best YOU you can be
One area that we can get hopelessly stuck in working toward perfection is the arena of self improvement! Be it meditation, exercise, prayer or healthy eating, we can make huge strides in improvement or get stuck trying to be perfect in our changes!
For instance, some people find meditation to be very difficult. It can be challenging to quiet the mind and to just be still for a period of 10 minutes or even longer. Many people have tried to meditate and because they couldn't quiet their mind for the proscribed period have just given up. They are not getting any of the benefit of meditation because they were unable to follow it "perfectly". But, what if one decided that they could meditate and just do it imperfectly? What if after only 5 or 10 minutes your mind is racing and you feel that you are no longer able to meditate? Do you just decide that meditation is not for you; or perhaps instead you decide that maybe 10 minutes of imperfect meditation is better than no meditation at all? Maybe you can allow yourself to imperfectly meditate until your mind get's too noisy and then just finish up?
Another area I see people fall, and I too have fallen prey to the notion of perfectionism, is in diet. One will set up a regimen for themselves to follow and go along with it until they first hit a snag. Maybe it's a girl scout cookie display in front of the grocery store; maybe it's your child's turn to bring treats to school and you are tempted and give in to snacking something off the diet? We all do it, but the next step is the crucial one. Do you decide "well, I've blown my diet, might as well just eat what I want"? Or, perhaps instead you could accept that you have fallen from your perfect ideal, but that it's only a stumble...you can get back to the regimen and just keep moving forward?
I have tried both avenues, and the second choice will always get you further. If you allow every slip to derail you on your path to your goal, you simply will never reach the goal.
Allowing for yourself to be imperfect and to fall short is essential if you are ever to achieve your goals. We are flawed, imperfect beings and our progress is quite often not at all linear, but filled with gaps and dips along the way to our goal.
Making Peace with being Good Enough
I think that one has to make peace with who they are and then agree that they are good enough. The media is so good at reminding us of all that is wrong with us and all that we can be doing to make it right! Any insomniac can tell you there are endless infomercials and they are all geared to remind us that we are so flawed without their service. We have facial hair, fat, wrinkles, digestive disorders, constipation, gray hair.........the list goes on! We are meant to believe that unless we attend to all these things we are failures. And, in the world of perfectionism and idealism, we probably are failures. But, I choose to be a failure in the Perfection Sweepstakes! I choose this because to buy into the belief of perfection is to always be disappointed. I could dye my hair, remove my facial hair, diet away every last ounce of fat, eat properly and still fall very far short of the ideal.
It is much more liberating to just be who I am and be happy in my imperfections. I'm not suggesting that we all give up striving for improvement! In fact, that is the opposite of what I suggest. I think striving to be Good Enough is a goal unto itself! I am not going to ever win competing against others, so I will just be the best ME that I can be! And, I will always be a winner, for there is nobody who can be a better me than myself.
Try to live your life doing the best you can but without trying to compete with anybody else. I predict you will find more peace and contentment and as you appreciate yourself, flaws and all you'll realize you are good enough just as you are.