Don’t Strive for Perfection: Strive for Acceptance
As human beings, we excel in certain areas, while in other areas, we don’t. Sometimes, we place painful judgments on ourselves if and when we ‘don’t measure up’. It’s fine to have reasonable expectations of ourselves—with a focus on improving our competency; where we get into trouble is when don’t accept the outcome; non-acceptance can become a recipe for misery.
Does this sound like you?
- Shame and Blame is the Achilles heal for perfectionists. Shame (at not being the best) is painful. When we don’t accept our limitations, resentment often surfaces: self-blame or blaming others, such as a spouse, family member or parent helps us avoid feelings of vulnerability. Welcoming our vulnerability is a pathway towards acceptance.
- Compensation: needing to over-compensate for what we don’t do well, including spending extra time and effort in areas of our lives where we do excel; our belief is that we can only be redeemed if we pay a price for our limitations. While it is gratifying to experience a sense of competence and the appreciation that comes with it, it is downright burdensome when it becomes a form of penance.
- Avoidance: there may be a tendency to avoid a task or responsibility that makes us feel more vulnerable; while we may wish that a dreaded task would just ‘disappear’, it won’t. Sadly, avoidance of a task or responsibility can wind up being more distressing than the task itself with dire consequences when not addressed. This is a time when it is crucial to ask for support.
- Global Distortion: if our tendency is to berate ourselves for not being the best at absolutely everything, there is a danger at living a life of distortion that misrepresents who we are, including diminishing our gifts and talents. Like an infectious disease, distortion replaces reality. Phrases, such as, “I can never do anything right” or “I’ll never be good at anything” sadly becomes the mantra that has little basis in reality.
It’s best to know and acknowledge our limitations—accepting them with grace and compassion. When we treat ourselves with compassion and respect, we feel better: anxiety decreases and we are less prone to treat ourselves as ‘the enemy’. Instead of striving for perfection, it’s more satisfying to strive for self-acceptance.