This is where perfectionism leads us to…
I’ve come to understand that the opposite of perfectionism isn’t laziness, it’s excellence.
We so often will cling to perfectionism in the name of excellence- but the truth is, nothing keeps us further from it.
Perfectionism never leads us to become our best…because perfectionism always tries to beat us down– the very opposite of what makes anyone rise, grow and shine.
Here’s why: perfectionism leads us to compare ourselves with someone else. Whether that is a real someone else or an imaginary someone else – when perfectionism is the lens we are looking through we try to latch onto this “someone else” out there who has it all together.
Think about it: we have to be using something as our measuring stick if we have the possibility of “not measuring up” or failing.
But what we use as a measuring stick matters. A lot.
The drive toward perfection holds someone outside of ourselves as the measuring stick (even if that “someone” isn’t real at all).
If others (or even your perception of what others do or think) hold the measuring stick that you compare yourself too….you will forever be coming up inadequate. Because there is no other you. There can never be an adequate comparison to hold yourself up against “out there.”
In an interview I did with Brené Brown, she explained how this comes up for her in her life. We were talking about how fragmented we can feel as mothers- feeling like there are so many parts of us – some of them having been “left behind” after having kids.
As Brené Brown shared, there is no one out there with the unique amalgam of identities just like her. She is a whole host of things at once- wife, mother, researcher, dabbler in the creative arts, volunteer…
But because she can’t find an exact replica of her to compare herself to, she defaults into comparing all the parts of herself with the “ideal or perfect” version of that person in the world.
She compares her writing to the best writer she knows in the world, she compares her research to the world’s best researcher, she compares her church work to Mother Theresa.
And she always comes up short.
There is no one out there doing everything exactly like what you do in your life. No one with the same mix of talents, gifts, responsibilities, personality, preferences, opportunities, challenges, situations etc.
I do it all the time. And I see other women do it all the time, too.
So we are left with the suffocating weight of always feeling “less than,” holding ourselves to this illusionary standard of perfection and the only option from that vantage point is feeling like we are always failing.
But, there’s a different way.
Grace breaks down the illusion that this life is about a race and the winner takes all.
Grace says IT’S ALL A GIFT. Life is all a wondrous, mind-blowing gift and you are part of that gift.
You didn’t have to DO anything to get this gift of being born- of having this life- of being who you are…your only job is to honor, care for and love the gift of life within yourself and be gentle and loving with the gift of life that is within everyone else.
Grace says the only goal is to become more and more of yourself– live into this unique gift of who you are.
Don’t shrink or shy away from your own potential to shine. Don’t waste the GIFT…instead ENJOY it, be GRATEFUL for it, do GOOD with it, be of USE and DELIGHT in the wonder of it all.
Grace isn’t going to lead us to laziness…it’s going to lead us to excellence.
Grace puts us in a natural position of awe and gratitude. And when we truly SEE things (and ourselves) in this way- it doesn’t squash the desire for growth improvement— it just sees growth and improvement through the eyes of love.
It’s the difference between the popular “self-help” movement and true, authentic self-care.
Self help says – “I’m broken, I’m less than, I’m not enough- I need to fix myself.”
Self-care says, “I’m worthy of nurture, It’s in my design to be replenished, I shine brighter when I’m well and vital— Caring for myself is a natural and necessary part of life.”
The greatest predator in the minds of modern-day mothers is the corrosive perfectionistic thinking that so many of us fall into. And it comes through in so many ways- it wears so many masks. The mask of comparison and self “improvement” are just one of the masks- but they are powerful ones all the same.
Where does this come up for you? When do you hear the voice of comparison getting louder during your day?
What if you practiced challenging it?
What if we began a dialogue with that voice and asked back,
“Who am I comparing myself to? What is my purpose in life- to be the winner of this imaginary perfectionist game?
Maybe I get to choose a different purpose in this moment and allow myself to be exactly who I am and look through the lens of grace to see myself with new eyes?”
Sometimes we have habits of thought and habits of beliefs for so long that we think those habits are who we are. It’s literally life-changing when you begin to realize you get to change those habits and open up whole new ways of seeing yourself and experiencing life.
Sending you so much love and wide-open grace-colored horizons,
I am so grateful that there is such an uplifting post to the perfectionist mindset that I find myself in. You have a truly amazing outlook that allows mothers like me to take a deep breath and realize that there is a broader horizon we can look towards. Thank you.
Thank you for this post, your message always comes at the right time! It show that the universe is continually work with and for us. With motherhood, I know I’m doing right by my family, at the same time it is so different than all the families around us that, there are times I wonder in the outcome. Which can be a little burdensome. Thanks again.
[…] the first thing on Monday morning I saw was this article by Lisa Byrne on perfectionism, in which she says that she sees perfection as being the opposite of excellence. This rang a bell […]
A perfect morning to start the day with a new thought about myself……My son in law’s parents are coming for the first time for dinner on Sunday……I always have a LONG list of cleaning,cooking things I just HAVE do get done, but my 69 year old body is saying….”I’m already tired just thinking about all the things you are making me do……..I wish you wouldn’t drive me so hard….”…..So my list today will be shorter, kinder, ……a relaxing break occasionally…..to honor today’s self……and not my 30 year old self that could easily accomplish all this. Thanks again, Lisa, for good words.