Monday, March 1, 2021

Showing Perfectionism the Door

As I write this, I'm battling a heavy dose of overachievement and a heaping helping of perfectionism. It's been a Monday -- one where nothing major went wrong, but lots of little things got under my skin. I won't detail them all here (you're welcome), but suffice it to say that a sense of progress is eluding me on many fronts. Couple that with some dropped balls that are in equal parts embarrassing and regret-inducing and you have the sum total of my gray, windy, why-can't-I-get-things-right Monday.

I know that the flip side to what went wrong is what went right and, in fact, I'm very good at helping other people reframe these things ("Look at what you did accomplish!"). In addition, I have to admit that a bit of "now I know what not to do next time" is much better than an even smaller dose of "well, that was really stupid" but, like so many others, the latter is more likely to be my first stop.

Peering into the machine to see how it works is not terribly helpful. Yes, I know we humans have a negativity bias, and it's much easier to pull up a beanbag and wallow than pull ourselves up to the table and have another go at it. Yes, I know I have much to be grateful for and, while pausing to reflect on that helps, it doesn't fix the mistakes. 

Which brings me to the uninvited guest of honor. Perfectionism. Those who know me well know perfectionism is never far from my front door. Those who know me only casually, on the other hand, would be surprised at how often it camps out on my front porch and how very, very easy it is to just cave in and let it come inside and point its gnarly finger at every perceived misstep, missed spot and missed opportunity.

Yeah. That kind of day.

And I know the answer is easy. Shove it back out the door through which it came. Shut the door and let the wind whirl perfectionism down the street. Its stink will linger, like good intentions gone bad, but if I light a candle and turn my thoughts to other things, the odor will dissipate. Sweeter, more fragrant thoughts will prevail, fueled by the flame that melts the waxy criticism and promises a light in the darkness, leading me to rest and realistic expectations.

On days like this when perfectionism is a ten ton toad perched on my shoulder and croaking in my ear, it's a lot harder to show it the door. But I have to, because the only other choice is to feed it and, if I do that, it's sure to stay.

So, fair warning, folks. I've managed to wrangle it out the door and push it down the street. Keep your eyes open and, if you see it coming, stay inside until it passes. It's a terrible houseguest and has a tendency to overstay its welcome.

You've been warned.

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