Have you been bitten by the perfection bug? I certainly have. Maybe it goes back to third grade when I had a couple of C’s on my report card and my father wrote a note to my teacher that said, “I am confident that Jackie has more within her and will do better. I will make sure that she does.”
Striving to be perfect is not only exhausting, it opens you up to an all or nothing attitude. I used to think, if I can’t be perfect, then I won’t do it, whatever “it” was.
That all changed when I found out a new meaning for the word perfect.
The Meaning of Perfect We Are Used To
According to my well-worn Random House Dictionary, the meaning of perfect is:
- Having all the desired qualities
- Having no flaws or shortcomings
- Correct in every detail
Perfect hair. Perfect skin. A perfect figure. Perfect children. A perfect home. Images of perfection bombard us every day through marketing, advertisements, and social media, especially social media with what we are supposed to do, have and be.
The messages scream loud and clear, “You are not perfect!” That means, you aren’t enough.
Silencing the Internal Perfect Gremlins
Worse than the outside voices of perfection are the inside voices of criticism. I call it the voice of the inner critic.
Artist and author of the book, The Creative Sandbox Way, Melissa Dinwiddie, calls them the perfect gremlins. She has an entire chapter devoted to dismissing these self-critical, self-doubting voices we have inside. (Her book is really awesome by the way, especially if you can use more play in your life like I can!)
These are the voices that say, “I’m not good enough.” “Who do you think you are to try this?” “You’re not Celine Dion, Claude Monet, or J.K. Rowling.” (For you singers, artists and authors out there.)
These perfect gremlins will always try to condemn us until we learn to silence them. I tell mine to be still. Melissa sends hers out for a pedicure. 🙂
So, what’s the real meaning of perfect that will help you let go of perfection and find joy?
A New Meaning of Perfect
There is a verse from Matthew 5:48 that says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
But, Jackie, you’re writing about letting go of perfection and now I’m supposed to be perfect as in God perfect???
In this case, the word perfect comes from a Greek word teleios. It means:
- Fully grown
In Latin, perfect means to fully ripen.
Like beautifully ripened apples, consider the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
If you are a creative person, this striving for perfection will cause blocks or missed opportunities. But for all of us, trying to be perfect can cause our self-esteem and self-worth to spiral downhill. It can mean harming those we love, too.
Say you lose patience and yell at your children. Or, you make a mistake at work. Let all the criticisms fly: “I’m a lousy mother. I’m a failure.”
Listening to your spirit (the voice of truth) will bypass the negative gremlins that tell you that you don’t measure up. You’ll respond to critical judgments with a “mature” response and not a critical reaction.
If you yelled at your children or messed up at work, make it right as quickly as possible. That’s what a “perfect” person would do. These are spiritual responses because they come from the Spirit of love, gentleness and self-control.
Practice Makes Perfect
I’ve recently connected with my best friend from kindergarten through high school and another friend from grade school because of a high school reunion. For the last three months we’ve had dinner together.
During our conversation, I mentioned that I wished I could have the last 10 years to do over again. We all agreed that we didn’t want to go back to high school, or our 20s, or 30s.
I asked them: what was the biggest thing they’ve learned in the last 40 years? Tracey said, “Not to sweat the small stuff.” Marsha said, “Material things don’t matter, relationships do.” I said, “I wish I hadn’t held onto trying to be perfect and that I lived more in the present moment instead of worrying about the future.”
I would call that a mature conversation. That’s because we had ripened over the years. Summed up in one word – perfect.
It takes practice to silence the perfect gremlins. But over time, you will find that it gets easier. That’s how you let go of perfection and find joy.
How do you silence your perfect gremlins? I’d love to know. Leave your answer in the comment section below.
Meditation helped me to tell my gremlins to be still. That’s why I’m so passionate about meditation and created resources to calm those thoughts of anxiety, doubt, and fear.
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