“I should have…” How many thoughts used to fly through my head every day that started with those three words? Far too many. These words are the trapping of someone who wants to be flawless.
Perfectionism is a misguided mindset that promotes the idea that there’s only one right way. If left unchecked, it can become a disease of the spirit — a kill joy.
It is a very profound awakening to discover that happiness has nothing to do with perfection. In fact, perfection can be a big barrier to joy.
Here’s an example. It used to be that the many of us believed that a marriage, two kids, a white picket fence and white-collar job was the perfect pathway to happiness. And now we know that the American dream can manifest in many lifestyles.
Without realizing it, we grew up idealizing a particular pathway believing that there’s a perfect route to bliss.The paradox of perfection is that we strive to be flawless to the detriment of joy.
So many wonderful moments were diminished or discounted because they were not quite perfect enough. This flawed mindset can creep in to our ambitions, our conversations and just about every aspect of our lives.
Here are three things you can do to find diversity in happiness and steer clear of perfectionism.
>> Know its voice: Perfectionism is fed by shame and insecurity. It preys on psychological weakness. It can be a voice in your head that sounds like: “You’re not pretty enough, good enough, rich enough.” It’s the voice that won’t allow you to be present.
>> Value progress more: When you value progress over perfection, you get traction and move forward in life and work. We lose opportunity when we’re afraid to fail and won’t get off the sidelines to jump in the game because the situation isn’t perfect.
>> Celebrate imperfection: An unmade bed is a far more interesting story than one that’s precisely made with pillows placed perfectly every morning upon rising. While I’m not advocating that you stop making your bed, I am suggesting that you find small ways in your life to be imperfect and still love yourself and others because of, not in spite of, a flaw or two.
Canadian poet Leonard Cohen said: “Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Most of all, know that perfection is about the need for control.
Letting go every now and then offers a lot of room for unplanned joy.
And as I look ahead and know there are fewer years ahead of me than behind me, I’ll take satisfaction and peace over perfection any day of the week.
Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit yourhappinessu.com.