Week 34: Silencing the perfectionist

perfectionPIN ITThirty four weeks into the Nothing New project and we’ve found ourselves living at my mothers… this wasn’t “exactly” the plan. But we all know what they say about life and plans and how the two don’t tend to get along.

Transitional living has been throwing curve balls at me that I never really expected. We moved out of the beautiful little solar powered cottage in the leafy suburbs south of our little town – and into my mothers. Another opportunity fell through and we found ourselves in-between a rock and my mothers, so we chose, graciously, to take her up on her offer of a comfortable place to stay while we figured out the what-comes-next dilemma. A gap of about six weeks lays ahead before our next bookef house-sit and whilst I love my mother dearly, that’s a very long time to be bunkering down in her home.

This is not the only (very minor in the grand scheme of things) challenge that we’ve found ourselves facing. I’ve been facing a much larger challenge, a war I’ve been waging in the somewhat overpopulated sea that seems to house the voices in my head.

A war against the very loud and unrelenting voice of my inner perfectionist.

Perfectionism is undeniably bound to the western culture of consumerism. It’s how we are sold just about everything…

This one last ‘thing’ that you need to make your home perfect, to make your experience perfect, to make you look perfect, to create a perfect childhood for your children… We continually upgrade and purchase new things that we don’t need  because we are told that they are the answer to something that we are not necessarily consciously searching for – perfection. Every advertisement that we see is a carefully constructed vision of perfection – and we strive for it, time and time again. I’ve watched friends try to construct the ‘perfect’ home, by throwing out, selling or giving away everything they own to make space for new (every)things – some people do this with their wardrobes too – as if this kind of carefully curated life is an entire life aspiration, as if it’s going to make our lives better in any kind of tangible way. As if this kind of surface perfection makes us happier. And maybe for them, it does.

The problem with this kind of material based happiness is it is always short lived.

Consumerism is a very clever beast, and just when you’ve bought the ‘perfect’ thing that you’ve needed all along… a newer, better, more perfect product will hit the shelves and the cycle begins again. We live in a world where idealism rules and we are forever running on the consumer wheel where clever product marketers are dangling the perfection-carrot right in front of us. It’s elusive. It’s powerful. It’s making us hungry for more. But it’s realistically unachievable. It stops us from loving what we already have. It stops us from being present. It chews through our time and our money and our sense of contentment.

The solution to this is not an easy thing to achieve in the world in which we live. The solution is to be happy with the things that we have and content with where we are. It’s not to stop striving to be a better person, but instead to stop striving for a world where we have more.

The world is already overrun with things. We produce things at an incredible rate, far higher than to meet a demand. Everything we purchase, is a vote for the kind of world that we want. If we look at the way that we live and the impact that makes far beyond our own homes and our own communities – we can see that this sort of perfectionism is not only damaging to our sense of success, our feeling of contentment and our general happiness – it is potentially catastrophic to our environment and to the wellbeing of people not only in our communities but in the world as a whole… and we can choose to vote differently, for a world that we want for our children… for the kind of world we want for other peoples children.

Striving for perfection makes us all vulnerable… striving to be perfect puts us in the firing line for a constant feeling of failure. When I used to work in the performing arts industry I felt a constant need to portray perfection, in an audition, in the way that I dressed, in the way that I looked – and over the ten years that I worked and auditioned and performed that constant standard of perfection nearly destroyed any sense of self worth that I had. It crushed me because I couldn’t separate what the industry expected from me and who I was as a person. It crushed me because I let it. It’s the only reason I walked away from an industry that I loved (and still miss) and walking away saved me.

Life is not about how we look or what we own. Life is about meaningful connections with people. Life is about bettering ourselves (spiritually, mentally, emotionally) and doing what we can to build stronger communities. The best way I have found to challenge (and hopefully eventually silence) the perfectionist in me is to step out into nature – to remember that what happens naturally in the world is imperfect and beautiful and exactly how it should be.

The word perfection is synonymous to ‘finished,’ ‘untainted,’ and ‘superior’ – I am none of those things, none of us are. So instead of beating myself up about the fact I’m a rather unfinished and terribly flawed… I’m attempting to embrace the fact that imperfection is not only natural.

It doesn’t matter if there is something better out there than what I have right now.

I have everything I need and everything I need is enough.

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  • August 25, 2014 - 7:38 am

    Life With The Crew - A simple idea, but not one that many people really “get”. I love the part about stepping into nature.ReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 6:44 am

      Sash - Nature saves the day 🙂ReplyCancel

  • August 25, 2014 - 7:46 pm

    Rachel - We found ourselves living in my parents spare room for 12 months! It was only supposed to be three months while we sorted out visas for China that our university had messed up. Well, they never got sorted, and because of that, my American husband was on the wrong Australian visa and I was really pregnant so neither of us had jobs for most of that time. Life has a habit of overturning the best laid plans of mice and men and teaching us what it is we really need whether we like it or not!ReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 6:44 am

      Sash - Absolutely. Life’s constantly yelling at us to slow down… and sometimes, maybe we’ll listen 😉ReplyCancel

  • August 27, 2014 - 6:55 am

    Jess - Very humbling read, and I needed to read this today. I don’t consider myself consumer crazy and live on very little… but I have anxiety and sometimes my behaviour and actions reflect perfectionism. If it’s not done a certain way it’s ruined, basically. I’ve started writing down 3 gratitude’s a day and journaling a positive experience to bring my mind to the present and to prevent it from dwelling.So far it’s helping.
    But it’s so nice and refreshing to read something like this. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 6:43 am

      Sash - I have anxiety too (especially socially when I’m having a bad day) – and I find it’s totally linked to the perfectionist inside me… A gratitude journal is a great idea!! 🙂 xReplyCancel

  • August 27, 2014 - 9:52 pm

    Jemimah - The perfect is the enemy of the good. Been mulling this quote over for a while now and this post made me think of it again. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 6:41 am

      Sash - I think it’s a really easy concept to grasp and a seemingly impossible one to live by… but slowly, slowly, the voice quietens. Slowly. 😉 xReplyCancel

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