You see, when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out. ~ Martha Graham.
As a former perfectionist (who am I kidding, I still am to a certain extent), I thought I’d tackle the subject of it. I’m not sure how I came to be someone who demanded perfection, mainly of myself — not others, mind you.
I’d over-analyze conversations I had with people when responses didn’t turn out the way I anticipated. I’d internalize when someone was mad, thinking it must’ve been something I’d done. I’d try to control situations, scurrying here and there, trying to make sure everyone was happy. That could be at a workplace, family get-togethers, events — any and everything that required not only my participation, but the cooperation of others.
Inevitably, things do go wrong. People get mad and disappointed. As I grow older and become a little more loving and gentle with myself, I realize just what a narcissistic way of thinking being a perfectionist is. The outcome, the expectation hinges on yourself — the way in which you do this or “control” that. It’s all an illusion. Things usually work out the way they work out, with or without someone trying to navigate a “perfect” outcome.
And trying to be perfect, well it’s exhausting and you never, ever get there. Because perfection, the idea of it, is personal and different to each of us. The funny thing is though, if you ever do reach it, then what?
It’s the Flaw That’s Perfect
When I identify with a character in a great book, it’s their flaws I love to love or love to hate. When I pick up a stone or a shell that has an unexpected ridge or bump or “strange” color, it’s that differentiation that attracts me. When I look at my dogs with white coats and see a little smudge of apricot near an ear or rub a pink belly with a speckle of brown here or there, it’s those “imperfections” that endear me to them — that make them even more perfect.
We’re constantly surrounded by images that suggest we must be perfect; our skin, our hair, our bodies, our jobs, our homes, our lives. If we get too caught up in it, we become slaves to whatever trend dictates this or that as perfect. We then run around trying to find it so that we can be the perfect wife, mother, husband, partner, lover, friend — whatever the case — until we realize that it’s all “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
In reality, we’re perfect exactly the way we are, right now. When I lament over “I need to lose a few pounds or more than a few” or look at myself in the mirror and notice lines on my face that weren’t there a few years ago or hand hubby a pair of glasses so he can read that damn tiny print on a menu or magazine or book, I stop and think — it’s all these little “flaws” that define the life I’ve led — that’s brought me here — this life, this love and this right now.
And I’ll remind myself of that and recite a quote in my mind that’s one of my all-time favorites that’s brought me through changes, upheavals, good times and bad:
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
That peace, to me, is the definition of perfection.
Happy Monday everyone and I hope that whatever your idea is of the perfect day, you have exactly that — today.
~ ~ ~
What’s your idea of perfection? A place, a person, a memory, a feeling, an object, an experience? What made it perfect?
Addendum: Emily at The Waiting just anointed me with a honor. Please go visit her — she’s wonderful — not just because she did this, but because she is. Head on over to her place and to BroJo’s blog, Brother Jon — they are both good people and we all need more of those.
I’ve not experienced perfection yet, beyond the birth of my children, and, because I had Csections, I felt I’d failed in a ‘normal’ delivery. Hell, let’s be honest, after 18 hours of labor, if they’d reached down my throat and pulled them out, I’d have considered it a ‘natural’ birth. Still….
But, the results were perfect. I never counted fingers nor toes–I figured if something was missing, someone would have told me fairly early on. Their souls and hearts and minds and bodies were just…perfect. Untouched. Divine.
Huh. Just made a liar of myself. I have experienced perfection. Thanks for the reminder!
Good morning, Addie! Eighteen hours of labor?!! Now, the fact that you did that and birthed two perfect kids, well, if that’s not the idea of perfection, I don’t know what is. Thank you for sharing, my friend. “Untouched, Divine,” that’s just beautiful. And perfect.
I’m right there with you. HF
Hey Harper! Thank you and nice to be in such good company. ;).
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
So true Brigitte. I struggle with acceptance of myself. I’d say today is a pretty perfect day– the simpler the better. Playing hooky with my hubs– homework DONE and simply nothing to do but “be”
Audra, now THAT is perfect. The same for me today!! We’re off pretty soon to go play. I struggle with that acceptance thing, myself, but that’s okay too. xo
Enjoy..and be happy my friend.
You too, sister.
You’re singing my song here, Brigitte. I am a perfectionist in much of what I do, but like you, I expect perfection from myself, not others. I’m always quick to cut others slack. I need to learn to do the same with myself. 🙂
I KNOW. What’s up with that?? Were you a middle child? Is it some birth order thing? Who knows, but let’s cut ourselves some slack, shall we? Here’s to realizing our “imperfections” are pretty damn perfect. ;).
are you a middler B?
I am the second of four but I’m definitely a middler.
should I have read this already somewhere?
I am a middler of three. Another reason we are drawn together perhaps?
We are the peacekeepers, the ones that try to please, the ones that everyone depends on. That and our brilliant minds of course are why we are drawn to each other. 😉
We’re all already divinely perfect, Brigitte. We forget, and here we are, with our human limitations, attempting to improve that which needs no improvement! That always bring a smile to my lips. I’m so glad you’re seeing the perfection you already are, my friend, makes savoring life so much sweeter! xoxoM
Margarita, it takes awhile and I backslide, but practice makes perfect, right? Thank you always for your beautiful take on things. The way you believe, the way you treasure what is — now that’s perfection. xxoo
Perfection, my dear friend, is ever expressing. It’s not as if we reach a point of perfection and then stop. That’s a human concept. Backsliding is part of perfection, for it is those moments that remind us to get back on track and keep us from being in a rut! I love your reminders, Brigitte – Perfection! xoxoM
Right on, B!
What is perfection anyways?
Mike, if you can find the answer to that, then we can work on world peace. Thanks, my friend. ;).
This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I can’t seem to escape the habit of going back over conversations, blog posts, responses and emails to determine if I did anything wrong. Flaws are a part of us and very inclusive. Perfection is cold and means to exclude. So why do we want to attain that “perfection” anyway? For me, maybe it’s because I think that it makes people like me better. That I am more worthy of love. Silly, huh? I suppose part of it is that I’m not content in my own skin yet. It’s a journey.
Literary, it sounds as if we’ve had the same experiences! I think most people feel that way and some are better at not displaying emotion than others. I wouldn’t be good a poker player and I’m an open book, so there you go. You shouldn’t have to work at getting some to like you. This is what I’m discovering as I go along. If they do, that’s good, if not that’s okay too. Being comfortable in your own skin and accepting the fact that you’re perfect just how you are — now that is the “secret.” So glad you enjoyed the post and thank you so much for your insightful and honest comment — it is so appreciated. Sounds pretty perfect to me! ;).
I love that quote by Emerson! Words to live by, for sure.
I have a problem with the idea of “perfection”. To me, it is unattainable, and, I am coming to realize, not even desirable. Why? Because perfection is the fashion model who is made up or airbrushed to appear without a flaw; it is an illusion. It is the showroom for interior decorating that we try to duplicate in our own homes, but if we succeed, the room looks too static; it no longer looks lived in, nor has your stamp of personality. And in our personal pursuits, if we achieve so-called perfection, what then? When we focus only on the goal, the outcome, the finished product, we can’t appreciate the journey, and the self discovery.
Hi Jennifer, what a great way to look at it! I’d not even thought of this but you’re so right! It’s not getting fixated on the outcome that’s difficult. When you do, you lose perception or just give up. Thank you for your wonderful comment!
Very thought-provoking and somewhat profound in coming to the realization that perfection is narcisstic–it is good for me to realize that and let it go too
sometimes in trying to reach perfection you stop trying because you know you cannot have it–by letting go of that then we can then aspire to so much more
this was a great post–got me thinking – thanks Brigitte
Hi Lou Ann, I think you and I share many similarities especially when it comes to our writing. But, you know believing that one can manipulate and control things in order to achieve perfection or agonizing over something — thinking that person is mad or sad or whatever because of something you’ve done (and I mean that in a universal sense) is really narcissistic, if you think about. We have no control over how people react! I don’t know about being profound but coming from you, I’m very flattered. Thank you my friend.
you are right–we have no control over how people react–and I agree, we are very similar except people read your philosophical and deep posts
People read yours do, woman. I’ve seen your comments!!
Sent from Brigitte’s iPad
they read me when I am funny or nostalgic but not necessarily when I am being philosophical but that is okay–you read me all the time – appreciate it
I still struggle with perfection and that is okay. I am learning to just be and just go with the flow if I can:) It is not easy, but it is not that hard either – find that balance. Happy Monday!
Hey Craves — I know, but trying to be perfect sometimes just results in being stagnant. Perfectionists sometimes won’t do anything because, well they want it perfect and that’s an illusion. I’m with you — balance is best. Thank you.
The beauty in getting older for me is that I do accept the imperfections as part of my character — too bad I couldn’t have been that way at 22 — haha!
Me too, Sandee. And my gawd, I wish I’d known that in my 20s too. But maybe we wouldn’t be the fabulous we are now, had we, right? Thank you — always so nice to see you here.
Happy Monday Brigitte!
Well-said, Brigitte. I think about perfection a lot, and while my personal philosophy differs from yours in some key aspects, I think it gets us to the same place.
I see perfection as a goal that can never be realized, but must be pursued anyway. I try every day to improve myself so that someday I might be a perfect human being, knowing that I will never completely succeed. I realize that this sounds melancholy or defeatist, but to me, it’s not. To me it’s kind of beautiful, like an alcoholic going “one day at a time” or a soldier’s sense of duty and honor inspiring him to run headlong into a battle he knows he will lose. To me, it is the effort and the striving that matter; the idea that you may not be perfect, but you’re better than you were the day before.
It works for me, but I think your philosophy might have more universal appeal.
Smak, I don’t know — I’m definitely not saying that we shouldn’t try to “improve” ourselves. Of course we do. That’s challenging, exciting and how we learn. That’s a perfect thing as well. This thing of trying to be a perfectionist, it can never be achieved and it normally results in feeling inadequate instead of perfect, at least for me. I’m saying accepting one’s self — the screw ups, mistakes,failures — all that stuff in life – instead of regretting or berating — is not only better for the soul, but for everyone involved. We always strive to be “better” I think and like you’ve so eloquently stated — there’s perfection in that. Thank you for your insight — so appreciated.
I am perfectly flawed. Just the right amount of emotional baggage and smart ass attitude to make me lovable. This is terrific topic Brigitte. One so many of us have had to deal with and one I gave up trying to become a long time ago. Have you ever seen the musical comedy I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change? It is a hilariously entertaining and oh so true Off Broadway play about people who strive for perfection in their relationships. Nicely done lady!
Ha! Me too Honie. That’s great – perfectly flawed. I sure am that and so are you, you say so I’m in good company. I’ve not seen that play but it sounds like something I would love — thank you. Thanks my friend.
I much prefer and am drawn to imperfections. They’re beautiful, like you said. I’ve never been a perfectionist much to the chagrin of those around me! ha! Psychologically speaking, some MIGHT say, that when we’re constantly critiquing ourselves the underlying message is, I’m not good enough the way I am. Attempting to make things “perfect” is really an attempt at reducing our own anxiety about not being enough. If we present a perfect version of whatever, then we are emotionally safe from judgement – our own, or someone else’s. So, being perfect is like having protection. No one can poke holes in something or hurt you if you’re perfect.
It takes someone with healthy self-esteem to let things go and risk exposing flaws.
This is a great topic, Brigitte. I think everyone struggles or has struggled with this in some capacity. If I’m around my perfection seeking sister for too long I practically break out in hives. haha! It makes me nervous and then I start questioning my own stuff. Like Honie, I prefer to see myself as perfectly flawed.
Also, perfection in relationships might be considered Co-dependent. When we’re controlling and worry about how we are perceived, or when we accommodate too much – all signs of co-dependency. That may be another great topic to cover? (As women we are so susceptible to this) This was an awesome post – lots to think about.
I was once very good at critiquing myself, very harshly. I’m way more gentle with myself but I catch myself falling into that perfection thing — just about me, mind you. I think as you grow, you learn that if someone is going to set terms on who or how you should be, then you realize that it’s just too exhausting, as is chasing perfection, to matter.
I think this would be a great topic for your therapeutic Thursdays, Lisa and I hope you do! You know I’ll be reading and learning from your wise words. I hope today is a beautiful day for you today. Thank you, Lisa.
P.s. after reading you went out and bought all kinds of fluffy wonderful for your bed, it makes me want to do the same!
Yay! Do it! It’s so heavenly.
You described my behavior so well in your opening section. I’ve always been hard on myself in everything I do, but while I want others to do their best, too, I’m more forgiving of them than myself. I still struggle with accepting things like aging gracefully or situations that don’t go as I’d hoped. I hope I’m learning more with each day about being a better, more accepting person. I suspect I’ll still be learning about that through my last day in this life.
Sound and fury, signifying nothing—that sums up my view on so much of today’s media. 😉
JM, really? It seems that many feel that way, especially women. Hmm, that could be a whole other post! I’m right there with you about “aging gracefully.” Me, not so much. Who does?? It’s difficult sometimes. As far as being a “better person,” I think you’re a wonderful person and I’m glad I found you. You’re always kind, your posts are wonderful and I always look forward to “hearing” from you because I value your input and opinion. Your statement, “I suspect I’ll still be learning about that through the last day in this life.” I think that’s we all do, you’ve just expressed it so beautifully. Thank you, my friend and I agree with you about the media thing. 😉
Sent from Brigitte’s iPad
Perfection arethe things that brought us into existence.. I wish I could add more, but I truly feel nothing can top that.
happy new week to you Brigitte 🙂
Well you’re right, Lynne. Nothing can top it — it’s perfect. Happy new week to you as well, my friend.
This is one of my favorite quotes about perfection: “When you can’t stand criticism, you become a perfectionist.”
Hey Allan — great to see you! I can take criticism, I just don’t always like it. 😉
It is good to be flexible in that regard.
Thanks, Allan. I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you, my friend.
Brigitte, I think I could have written this post practically word for word. But you probably already knew that since that’s how I describe myself in my blog title anyways. 😉
Not so long ago, I’d get terribly worked up if the tiniest thing went wrong or differently to my plans. I’d get upset because it meant I didn’t do enough planning, or backup planning, and perfectionists were supposed to always be prepared! But then I realized at some point that I’d never be happy if I kept dwelling on those things. It’s still a work in progress but I’m starting to relax and just go with the flow. As long we try and do our best, I think that’s what should matter in the end.
Lillian, I’ve read some of your posts that I have related to as well! Ones that are about worry, making the right decision and what if’s. I’m like that as well and it’s exhausting, isn’t it?? I know exactly what you mean by it being a work in progress. Some days I’m much better at it and much easier on myself and then others, not so much. And I agree, doing our best is the best we can do. Thank you!!
To me, perfection is not having to be perfect. You and I are in complete accord. Perfection to an artist is crippling and self torture. I’m a fiber artist (and I also weave baskets, believe it or not!) and I remember the advice of my teacher several years ago in a natural dyeing class. Her first instruction was this: “In the world of natural dyes, you must learn to love what you get because you’ll never be able to control your outcome completely.” Probably good advice for life, really. Wonderful post, Brig. Thank you, as always.
That’s so true, Cathy. It is because if you agonize getting every just so, it’s stifles you to the point you just don’t do anything. You weave baskets as well? Wow. When I lived in Charleston, SC, there were these women that weaved unbelievably beautiful baskets that took weeks to complete. A tradition that is hundreds of years old. I’m sure there are some flaws in those, but viewing it as a whole — it was perfect. And that advice you were given — that can be applied to anything in life. Thank YOU, Cathy. xxoo
I think that you’re definitely onto something with this Monday’s musing, Brig, for as much as I’d like to say that pursuing perfection is a hopeless waste of time and energy, I am very guilting of ignoring my own logic, pursuing it, and failing miserably. Trying to achieve one’s best is a valid goal, but at the risk of sounding Lance Armstrong-ish, it does displease me immensely when I’m in a team situation, such as in the workplace, and the Weak Link in the group screws up. Not to imply that I’m the type that thinks much about the necessity of blood doping in the workplace. Today my boss caught one of the Weak Link’s snafus and as usual, I was summoned to clean it up. Of course when The Boss asked me to explain how this snafu happened, I thought, “Because Weak Link’s a fuckin’ idiot,” but I said, “Human error.” That phrase tends to be an effective diffuser and I don’t want to see anyone get laid off especially in this crummy economy.
V, I understand completely what you mean. When I worked in corporate America, I’d always be doing that — “fixing” things. Leaving things better than I found them and stunned at how someone before was able to work when things weren’t “perfectly” filed, written, done arranged. Argh! There’s always going to be those people that just get by. But, I wonder — are they happier for it? It seems to be they’re much more laid back than I am and it’s never their fault — know what I mean? Thanks fellow semi-perfectionist. 😉
I always say embrace the imperfection, it is what I enjoy most. If I did it right, I would never have the self depricating story. 🙂
Rep, isn’t that the truth? And everyone loves that self-deprecating thing because we can all relate! Thank you.
what a lovely read. i’m constantly astounded by the really self aware and analytical bloggers, i have come to know on here. you and lyssapants come to mind as some of the best ones… xoxo, sm
What a nice thing to say, SM — thank you so much. xoxo back at ya.
For me, perfection is tied up with the things that I wouldn’t change if I were given the chance. Neither my husband or my child are by any means without fault. I mean, they’re humans. But to me, they are both perfect exactly the way they are because they are mine. I really wouldn’t change anything about them.
Such great thoughts, Brig! 😀
Hey Em, I know what you mean. Hubby, my pups and our life — it’s about as perfect as perfect can get — for me anyway. Thank you!!
Oh, I spent so many years agonizing over how I wasn’t perfect—of course nobody is, but I agonized over how everyone else was *more* perfect, closer to perfect, than I was. It took me a lonnnnnnnnnnnng time to get past that mindset and eventually I learned that there’s no point in trying to be perfect because that’s really not the point. Then I look at my cats, with their little off-center mustaches, their random splotches of colors in odd places, the silly black whisker in the middle of the white whiskers, and I think, this makes them even cuter than if their colors were all in the “proper” places!
I hear you, J. I did the same thing. And animals, well they ARE perfect, knowing and always, always love you — no matter what, at your best or at your worst. That’s perfect to me. Thanks, Weebs.
In quilting my quilts almost always have a humble block. One that has a mistake in it and if I’m too far along or don’t notice until I’m done I just label it as such. I believe as much of a perfectionist as I am, my life is a continually humble.
Hi Debra — I wish I could quilt! My sister-in-law made one for us for a wedding present. Being grateful and humble IS part of the perfection! Thank you.
I am very late to this party, but came courtesy of Amy who highlighted this post on her blog. I am very glad she did. Lately I have been thinking about this a lot; in that I expect perfection from myself, but I am so forgiving and grateful for imperfection in others. Not just physically, but the flaws and quirks people have are what make them endearing and interesting to be with. Our mistakes are the things that give us character. So hooray for the imperfection in all of us.
Talk about perfect timing (ha)! I’ve been letting the weight loss thing get me down. If I don’t love myself now, I won’t when I’m lighter. I’ll just appreciate that I have beautiful kids who say I am “perfect” already – to them.