Why We Need to Let Go of Perfection


Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?  I confess, I didn’t even know I was a perfectionist until someone else brought it to my attention. Perfectionism had been so deeply woven into my existence that I wasn’t able to see the separation between me and my attempt at living until a few years ago. Truth is, I am still trying to learn how to embrace my true identity without perfectionism being the driving force with how I live.


I picked up the idea that it was necessary to do everything to a “ T” when I was still a child.  Partly to avoid criticism, as I often heard a voice chasing after me, “Can’t you ever do anything right?!” Partly because I believed that I would be able to win over the love and attention I desperately desired.  The intention behind the behavior was absolutely warranted, especially since it was coming from a place of safety and connection.  Unfortunately, perfectionism becomes a prison. 


We are brought into a world and then molded. Our beliefs and behaviors are shaped right before our very eyes… and yet it is done so clandestinely that we don’t even realize that we have been robbed of our authenticity and innate beauty.  All of a sudden we are living life from a place of inadequacy. We are too tall or too short. Our hair is too thin or too curly. Whatever it is that we have, we want something different. What we have isn’t good enough. Who we are isn’t lovable.  

Christopher Windus courtesy of Unsplash

Christopher Windus courtesy of Unsplash

What is this idea of perfection? Is it yours or is it someone else’s?


By observation we learn that the only way to become loved and accepted is to fit into the world of “Perfect.” That ideal that is out there, on a pedestal. A shimmering light beaconing you toward it. Your mind so focused on this illuminated ideal, yet your heart heavy with the truth.  “You will never be perfect…. but damn if I don’t try!!!” says the mind.   The heart says, “You will never be “perfect” because you aren’t living your truth. Perfect isn’t an ideal that exists outward, it is a state that exists inward. (In other words) You don’t need to be anything different. You just need to be you!”


You, your true essence, IS perfect!  It is when we step into the shoes of being someone we aren’t that the pain of perfectionism creates so many emotional pains. These pains stem from a dark pit that lives in the core of our existence when we don’t allow our truth to live.  The longer we deny this truth, the more estranged we become from our own miraculous authenticity.


Elizabeth Gilbert describes perfection in her book Big Magic with such eloquence and truth:

I think perfection is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear. I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says, again and again, “I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.” 


It is so easy to get swept into the desire to be loved, seen and accepted. I mean, we are human, and those are some of our most basic needs!! The reason why perfectionism doesn't serve us is because it draws a line of separation. It point to our flaws and inadequacies. It says we are un-deserving and unfit. It becomes an us vs. them.  It puts us on the outside of happiness, success, and worthiness. 


The truth is I believe most people struggle with feeling some sense of unworthiness.  Sure, we know the phrase “Follow Your Heart,” yet we are told to conform to society and cultural expectations. This is a dichotomy, and we can’t do or be both.  We are also told the story of the Ugly Duckling.  Such a beautiful message that it is okay to not fit in, and that reality doesn’t always meet the eye.  Yet, once again, that message gets lost, falling through the cracks of society's expectations. 


So, what is the definition of perfect? To be entirely without fault or defect, mistakes or flaws. 


Really?! Read that line again. Without fault or defects, mistakes or flaws? Let’s sit with that for a moment.  You mean that a human being can’t make a mistake? Uh, but that is how we learn!  Our perceived flaws are what make us unique, our defects are what gives the world color, and life spice! 

Lina Angelov courtesy of Unsplash

Lina Angelov courtesy of Unsplash

Like I said, we learn by making mistakes, by being imperfect. By failing, by falling flat on our a$$ when we are trying something unfamiliar.  It is how the world works. The magic happens when you can pick yourself up after you have fallen. It is brushing the dirt of your keister, giving yourself a few words of support, taking a deep breath and moving forward. Not looking back at it as a failure but as an experience. With the experience came wisdom.


I believe the drive to perfection is something that is driven from our environment. They aren’t necessarily your ideals or ideas, but they are someone’s.  When we listen to and believe the media, corporations, culture, friends or peers, we are giving our power away. We are allowing something outside of ourselves to rule our emotional state and our inner wellbeing.  

If you think about it, the idea of perfection is really the idea of sameness.. To be perfect means to fit a very specific mold. If we each fit that mold we would all be the same. How ridiculously boring would that be!! 

Perfection is sameness, and sameness is boring!


We aren’t meant to be something we’re not.  When we spend all of our life energy into being and doing something that our inner spirit doesn’t desire we end up cultivating loneliness, confusion and pain.  We create a larger gap between who we actually are, and who we wish we were.  


If you think about it “perfect’ is a moving target. Depending on where you are and who you are with the concept of perfect will change.  It is something or someone you can never be. The ideal is always changing. Life is always changing. The season’s change. Tree’s drop their leaves. The garden goes dormant. Does that mean that Winter is imperfect?  We are human, and we are a part of nature. We are shifting, growing, evolving forms of life.


When we live in a state where we are driving toward perfection we get caught up in tiny little details and nuances that don’t mean anything in the grand picture of life.  We focus on how much money is in our bank accounts, how small our waist is, how high our grades are, what title we have after our name that we don’t even notice the weight of sadness in our heart.


With time, space separates us from our true self, and we only know ourselves as the idea of who we should be (perfection). The gap becomes so large we become blind, def and numb to who we really are and what we truly want.  Finally, at some point we find ourself in this prison. We might be overcome by depression and anxiety, or find our bodies in a state of disease.  We may fall into behaviors like binge eating, or thoughtless hours of television watching. Things that feel like we are sabotaging our efforts of perfection; punishment for not meeting those ideals.  

The truth is that is it is in these moment of darkness that our truth, our inner light, is trying to break free. That separation from self is trying to get your attention. It is as if you are standing on one side of the Grand Canyon. One part of you is on the side of aspiring perfectionist, living life for others. It is here you say “This is me! Fearful, hurt, unworthy, alone, inadequate, and a failure.” While the real you is on the other side of the cavern, so far away that it appears to be nothing more then pebble. That tiny speck is your soul. So crushed and forgotten, and yet so full of love and desire. The you on the other side of confusion and illusion is your salvation. It is your true essence. It is your beautiful imperfection. It is the nectar of life that wants nothing more then to spread it wings of magnificence.  Are you willing to set yourself free?

Photo by Tara Mixon

Photo by Tara Mixon


I am so curious to know what set the rules for the way everyone should be, act and look?  Do you know who actually has that power? You. You have the ability to create your reality, and it isn't by changing things, it is by accepting them. 


We need to be able to create space and awareness to be able to see what we deem as “perfect.”  Is the driving force of your life coming from your own personal desires, or are they deeply influenced by someone else’s?  This is YOUR life. You hold your own heart in your hand. How you choose to carry it, nourish it, and support it is up to you.  You have the power to live your truth, speak your truth and guide others to do the same.


It is when you live life from your truth you are living life without fault.  When you follow your heart and intuition you are honoring self. You are living life your way!  THE way we are meant to live.


What if we re-defined the idea of perfection? What if perfection is anything that is real, living truth?  Your truth.  


Perfection is following your dreams. It is following your intuition, and listening to that little voice in the back of your head.  It is experiencing to your emotions and feeling the sensations in your body. It isn’t controlling things, or trying to shape things into to something they are not.


We often use the term perfect to describe an experience. “Oh, what a perfect evening!”  “The weather is so perfect right now.”  In these moments what are we actually saying? We are acknowledging that something within us is expanding. We are present with what is, and accept it for face value.  When you are sitting in a moment that feels perfect we feel alive, our hearts rejoice, our spirits sing. We are joyful. We feel grateful for the experience. We are full of love.


So really, what perfection is, is noticing reality. Allowing the truth to be. Perfection is to feel into the truth that already exists.  The sky is blue today. It is perfect. Today the sky is covered in heavy rain clouds. It is perfect.  


Connecting with the emotions that arise during any given experience. Today I miss my grandfather who passed away a year ago, and I notice I am sad. Perfect.  My beloved cat crawls into my lap while I am trying to focus on writing. Perfect. At the end of a bike ride I tried to do a bunny hop up onto the sidewalk. Instead I went tire first into the curb and went sailing into the grass. Perfect. Embarrassed as all get up as a guy in a car drives by and asks if I am ok? Perfect! 


We learn from trial (and error).  We grow each time we put ourselves out there. Like a tree expanding it’s branches. It get’s grander and more beautiful the farther it reaches. 


What if we are perfect just because we exist? What if we are worthy simply because we are alive?  What if happiness comes from being true to ourselves instead of being who others want us to be? 


Here is a beautiful story of someone following their hearts instead of societies norm, and finding happiness.  Let's face it. We are here, in this life, in these miraculous bodies to live our truth, no one else's. I believe it is in that truth that we find what we are looking for. Perfection.