Finding Greatness
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Finding Greatness

This Is For You, The Recovering Perfectionist.

Yes, spiritual perfectionism is still perfectionism.

Credit: The Red Fairy Project

I struggle with perfectionism

This means I feel like the things I do are not good enough or complete. I compare myself against unrealistic standards, and judge myself as lacking

It means I am afraid to follow through on the things I care about the most. I begin one thing and begin the next, never getting to the end. I procrastinate or find reasons why I am not ‘ready.’

Here is some advice that is simple and true.

Daily Reminders for the Recovering Perfectionist:

1. Done is better than perfect.

‘Perfect’ is an illusion, an abstract ideal. It won’t be perfect.

You could always make it better — whatever the ‘it’ is — but first you have to make it.

Finish the draft, have the difficult conversation, pick up the instrument. Take the first step, and then keep going.

Aim for action, not perfection.

2. It’s all practice.

Trying to write a book? Start a business? Rock climb?

Congratulations, you are already learning something new!

Remember that everything you have learned so far has come through practice. Give yourself time to learn, and know that the learning never ends.

What are you practicing?

What is something you want to do, and haven’t yet?

3. Practice compassion.

Learning something new can be difficult, slow, and frustrating. To draw from the classic example: Before we can walk, we crawl. We learn to walk by trying, through falling and stumbling and trying again.

If you feel weighed down by perfectionism, this is the time to support and lift yourself up. Instead of looking at the distance between you and the end-goal, celebrate how far you’ve come so far. Maybe your book has no plot and is all incoherent rambles — but remember when it was just a blank page? Progress, man! That’s something to celebrate.

Recognize that right now you are doing A Difficult Thing, and take this as an opportunity to give your inner-child some love and encouragement.

Or/and: think of a someone you know and send them some support. We are all just babies falling and stumbling, and it can be the smallest act of care that helps us stand back up and try again.


4. Spiritual perfectionism is still perfectionism.

Yes to self-care and self-love, and all the ways to nourish, transcend, and perfect the self. Oops, I mean accept the self. Let’s not get too carried away.

Self-compassion can take many forms. It can mean mindfully drinking tea and belly breathing. It can also mean sitting on the floor and eating almonds while listening to angst teen pop. Or whatever.

Meet yourself where you are at in this moment, and listen to what it is *you* need. Trying to always be present in the ‘right’ way is another trap of perfectionism.

5. Nothing is original.

Maybe it’s all been said before and done before, but it’s never been said by you. There is no way to say anything true without tripping up in cliches and tropes. Everything True is timeless — and it wants to be spoken again (and again). Put aside your ego, and start using your voice.

“Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.” — W.H. Auden

6. Try something different.

Perfectionism can be paralyzing — psychically and physically. I experience it in my body as a tightness in the forehead and jaw and tension in the neck and shoulders. It can also be mentally draining. I’ll sit down to work on something that I’m excited to do, but soon after the fear kicks in, and I find my mind is foggy and exhausted.

This is the time to shake things up!

  • Ask yourself: What would this look like if it were easy? Is there another way I can approach (x) instead?
  • Take a break.Go for a walk, do the dishes, work on another project. Bonus if you do something fun: dance to your favorite music, do something creative.
  • Get to know the perfectionist within you. Turn him/her into a character with separate fears and desires, and start a conversation between you two.

7. You are doing this for yourself.

And don’t you forget it. This is YOUR process (practice, progress, and path).

Even if it is an assignment or task for someone else, remind yourself why you are doing it and how it fits into your larger vision. And if it doesn’t, then it’s time to re-evaluate your goals.

What standards do you hold yourself to? What does success mean to you?

And some extra reminders:

  • No one is judging your process of growth.
  • No one cares as much as you think they do.
  • There isn’t a ‘right’ way, and you won’t ever fully feel ‘ready.’ Life is happening now!
  • It is okay. It will be okay.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. — Anne Lamott

Screw perfect!

Hello, freedom.



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Yael Shira

Creative practice, chronic illness, and everyday healing. Writing to write, 25 minutes a day.