Many frustrate themselves and set themselves up for inevitable failure by demanding perfection from themselves.
This unrealistic drive for perfection causes a great deal of stress and anxiety for battalions during the holiday season. Perhaps they are motivated by the fear that if they are not perfect, they will lose the love, acceptance, and validation they need and seek from others.
That one always has to be perfect is not only an unrealistic idea, but a dangerous one as well. The artist Salvador Dali once said, “Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.”
Ironically, the attempt to always be perfect stifles the actualization of your own unique and particular potentialities! It is of value to accept your own limitations. Learn how not being perfect will not only liberate you, but provide you with an abundance of opportunity.
For a person obsessed with perfection, making a mistake is an irreparable catastrophe that will inevitably call down the wrath of others, or so they think.
Yet, for others, making a mistake can be an opportunity for learning something new, for spiritual development, and for discovering the healing power of forgiveness and love. No one would punish a child learning to walk because the child stumbles and falls. But some people punish themselves as they occasionally stumble on the journey of life.
Being perfect is not part of our nature, but being able to learn from and to correct our mistakes is. A danger of expecting perfection is that the horror of not achieving it can inhibit our actions, paralyze our talents, stifle the crafting of life as a work of art. As Pogo puts it, in the drive for perfection, “We have met the enemy, and they are us.”
No one can do everything.
Think of the Emily Dickinson poem:
If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
or cool one pain …
I shall not live in vain.
Or, as Jung has written, “The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.”
During the holiday season, clearly define your goals, make them realistic, know what must be done and how to do it. Any time you look at your goals with anxiety and frustration, or you have a need to control the situation otherwise anxiety ensues, you know your goals are unrealistic.
Instead aim for the “flow,” a sense of accomplishment, a state of self-fullfillment. In flow, a goal becomes wedded to a specific task. Concentrate on the task at hand, merging of action and awareness. Your sense of timing will become remarkably synchronic. You will become in tune with what you are doing, with who you are, and who you want to become.
Adapted from Crafting the Soul, by Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin, Ph.D.(Park Street Press, 1998). Copyright (c) 1998 by Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin. Reprinted by permission of Lantern Books.
Adapted from Crafting the Soul, by Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin, Ph.D.(Park Street Press, 1998).