Pippa was a perfectionist.
Everything she did was neat and ordered.
She looked pristine in every way.
Her home. Immaculate.
Her parties were organised to be just fun enough. Even her jokes and banter was planned and perfect in their delivery.
Even if she was writing a note and made an error, she’d throw away the whole sheet and start again.
Without perfection, she panicked.
She felt out of control. Lost. Scared.
One day, a teacher told her, ‘Look at that tree. Wonky. Bent. Is it beautiful?’
‘Yes’, she admitted.
‘Is it imperfect?’
Pippa hesitated. ‘Yes’.
‘So can imperfection be beautiful?’
‘I suppose so’, she had to admit.
‘The imperfect tree is good enough just the way it is. And so are you. Imperfect and beautiful just the way you are.’
‘The whole universe is both imperfect and beautiful just the way it is. And guess what? You’re not separate from the universe and her rules. You too are imperfect and beautiful.’
‘Even your desire to be perfect is part of the universe. And so is your desire to stop being a perfectionist!’
‘Behind perfectionism is control. Behind control is fear. And behind fear…a self-critical voice that you believe to be true…but it’s not. Thoughts are just thoughts. Replace your self-critical voice with a friendly, kind voice…like that of a good friend.’
‘Ask yourself daily: ‘What would a kind friend say to me right now?’’
Pippa realised what was behind her compulsion to be perfect.
It was fear, combined with a harsh, self-critical voice in her head.
It was the idea ‘I’m not good enough...but I don’t want anyone to find out’
And it was just a thought. And so she could replace it with a better thought. A warm, kind friendly thought. Why not?!
Two Steps to Overcome Perfectionism
She was advised to begin purposefully do two things:
- Begin doing things imperfectly, on purpose, to challenge your habit for perfection.
- Begin to speak to yourself in a way a kind, friend would advise you.
So, she began intentionally turning up to meetings 10 minutes late…and said to herself ‘It’s okay. Everyone is a bit late sometimes.’
She began leaving parts of the house untidy on purpose…again using soothing language to cope with the feelings of fear that arose.
She wore a blouse that had a visible mark on it and reminded herself that others mistakenly do this too. It’s no big deal.
She went to restaurants without checking the reviews. She wrote emails with mistakes in them.
With time, she became comfortable in her imperfections. She relaxed.
She had learnt the art of letting go, step by step.
Meditation is the art of letting go.
Pippa had began to turn her life into a meditation.
And so can you! If you can relate to Pippa’s story, try some of the above strategies and let me know how it goes.
Four Facts about Perfectionism
Here’s my 4 facts to help remind me how to overcome perfectionism:
1. Does perfect exist?
Has anything ever been perfect? What? Are you sure - look again. Some people may give the example of a painting...ok, it may look perfect, but to achieve that, do you think they produced imperfect pieces beforehand. Yes, big time! And is it perfect under a microscope - certainly not!
Once you think about it enough, you’ll realise that nothing is perfect.
2. Is there beauty in imperfection?
Again, yes. It’s called Wabi-sabi in Japanese - the beauty of imperfection. Look at any tree, any forest, any cloudy sky, any plant or animal. There are imperfections there that make them look incredible beautiful.
So hopefully you’ll agree. Yes, there is beauty in imperfection.
3. Are imperfect people beautiful?
All the lovable people in comedies, movies...and in real life...are loveable because of their imperfections! Their idiosyncrasies are what make them so great. So yes, there is great beauty in imperfection. Not in perfect thought, speech or action.
4. Are you beautiful in your imperfection?
So, assuming you’re not perfect, are you beautiful in your imperfection? Do you make mistakes, think stupid thoughts, feel upset easily, can’t meditate to save your life, hate yourself or something else? Is your nose too big or your legs too fat? Are you lazy or depressed or anxious or underachieving? Join the club! And we love you for your imperfections too!
Does that make you imperfect like the tree and sky, river and birds?
Enjoy your imperfect day. :-)
Behind perfectionism is often a harsh, self-critical voice saying you’re not good enough. You can overcome this by doing two things:
- Purposely doing things in an imperfect way to gently challenge yourself and bring up the fear you naturally avoid.
- Asking yourself in that moment: ‘What would a kind friend say to me, right now?’ And then consider acting on that advice.
Want a FREE live meditation on the beauty of imperfection this week?
Free Live Online Meditation on Friday! Join me on Facebook Live on Friday 14th June at 1pm UK time (8am Eastern Time).
Simply go to the Shamash Alidina Facebook page and click Like and tune in at that time. If you miss it, no worries - catch the recording, if it works!
I shall be guiding an imperfect meditation called the Tree Meditation - all about embracing imperfection for 10 minutes or so. Just a free meditation for you to enjoy - no catches, don’t worry!