How to Perfectly Fail at Being Perfect

Recently, my eighth grade daughter, Julia, and her friends came up with a list of their most disliked words: mucus, cyst, phlegm, crotch, moist, ointment.

“Mrs. Kause, what is your word?” 
“My word is perfect.” I said.
“What about your word is perfect? What’s the word?” They asked again.
“Perfect, that’s my word.” Julia gave me an eye roll; she knows where I am going with this response. But the friends all looked at me in disbelief. ‘Perfect’ is on the best word list, isn’t it?  It’s what so many people strive to become.

“Perfectionism doesn’t make you feel perfect. It makes you feel inadequate.”~Maria Shriver

When my daughter began kindergarten, I noticed she had heard the word perfect. Suddenly she became constantly disappointed with her school work. “It has to be perfect!” 
Well, no, it doesn’t. It just has to be your personal effort right now, which can vary from day to day. Or maybe even minute to minute, if you’re in kindergarten. I’m not suggesting we all should quit giving our best effort, but in my experience, one can’t be certain what perfection is, it’s an individual interpretation. I decided to teach her a new word, my favorite word- Acceptance.
“It’s ok if it doesn’t look the way you thought it would, accept that this is the result of your ability, right now.” 

In my opinion, perfection is a disheartening goal to set for oneself or to set for those whom we love, like, or see every day or just occasionally. Over the years, I have come in contact with several perfectionists. The shared common theme is a deep unhappiness caused by the pressure to maintain a reputation of perfection. Whether it is perfect test scores, perfect job reviews, perfect physical appearance, perfect spouse, perfect kids, the list is unending. 

Living with these high self-standards, unwittingly caused them to put those same standards on those around them. The disappointment in themselves and others was constant and contributed to many problematic relationships.
Definition of a Perfectionist; a person who demands perfection 
of himself, herself, or others.

With a trend in mindfulness becoming a popular practice, my hope is that perfectionism will begin to decline. When the perfectionist is continually critiquing their past performances and conversations or worrying about future activities or commitments, they are not living mindfully in the moment. Letting go of perfection allows us to live in the present and to be mindful of what’s in front of us.
How do you transition from being perfect to being able to live in the moment, without regret or worry? 

1. Get comfortable with ‘good enough’ we are human beings not machines. Part of our human condition is to have varying degrees of ability based on day to day circumstances.

2. Practice non-judgment of self and others. Being aware of the judging we do is the first step in letting go of this self-defeating habit.

3. Control your thoughts, don’t let your thoughts control you. Focus on what you are doing, as you do it. 
Try meditation and give your mind a break, let go of all thoughts.

4. Practice gratitude daily. Being grateful reminds us of all we have and are able to do, every single day. Expressing gratitude is truly transformative. – 47c442101e67

5. Eliminate the word Perfect from your vocabulary. Try a variety of words and phrases that celebrate ourselves, others and acknowledge efforts and accomplishments:

Great effort!
I learned a lot from that experience.
Nice job!
You are learning more every day!
I look healthy and happy. 
Awesome work!
Way to hang in there! 
One hundred percent correct!
You are trying so hard!
I am proud of myself.
You learned so much from this challenge.
I like how you never gave up!
Now you know what to expect next time.
We are all magnificently flawed.

Even though I got an eye roll and people may disagree with my methods and opinion, I’m satisfied with my failure to be perfect. I live in gratitude with the acceptance that, I am enough.

This blog post was originally published for Breathe Yoga, Chelsea, MI.
Pottery created by Jeff Kause.

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