How to Stop Beating Yourself Up, An Ode to Being Imperfect
"A father pointed to his paraplegic son and railed at God for his imperfect child. God's reply came: "Seek perfection in your reactions, not in your son's physical makeup." The real message here is that we, as human beings, must accept the fact that we are imperfect, and that is alright.
Kristin Neff, author of a must-read book called "Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind," defines perfection as the compulsive need to achieve and accomplish goals, with no allowance for falling short of ideals.
Why do some people insist on perfection in everything they do? Many theories attempt to explain this. One reason is that the perfectionist is insecure and believes that he or she is not good enough. In other words, there is a lot of self-judgment in those who seek perfection.
A second reason is that the perfectionist is compensating for a deep sense of inadequacy. The view is that others are better than they are. In their pursuit of perfection, they are up against frustration because perfection is not achievable for anyone.
The fact is that we live in a competitive society that demands constant productivity. While the nation does not require perfection, it does reward those who strive for it. However, in striving for perfection, we run into nothing but self-hatred, frustration, and depression because it is impossible to be perfect.
As Tara Brach points out in her excellent book, Radical Acceptance, there is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life. With even a glimmer of that possibility, joy rushes in. Yet when we have been striving to make Pillsbury(perfect) biscuits for a lifetime, the habit of perfectionism does not quickly release its grip. When mistrust and skepticism creep in, it is tempting to back down from embracing life unconditionally. When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to accept life wholeheartedly.
Unless we give perfectionism a terrible reputation, it does have a right side to it. In so far as it motivates people to do the very best they can, it has advantages. Striving to achieve and setting high standards for yourself can be a productive and healthy trait. However, once a person places self-esteem on perfection, then there is nothing but unhappiness. Neff points out that the perfectionist is at significant risk of developing eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and other emotional problems.
It is a relief to accept being faulty and accept the way we are.
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