Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Perfectionism: Ring the Bells

posted by Beyond Blue

I recently dragged my kids to Baltimore so that I could have lunch with an old colleague (he’s young…but we’ve known each other for 13 years) at the National Catholic Education Association convention. A gifted writer and speaker, my friend can get his audience to laugh right after they’ve cried.

As my Katherine and David grabbed his pieces of watermelon off his plate after rolling in the aisles of the publishers’ exhibit, he described his process of becoming comfortable in front of a large group of people who expect him to inspire them and say something spiritual that they can take home in their tote bags.

The next day I sent him an e-mail thanking him for our time together and for sharing his gifts with the world–even though that’s, at times, a struggle for him.

“I’m glad, too, that I am giving what I have to the world, and I’m glad you are too,” he replied. “I held back a long while–typically out of fear of being unworthy. A while back I came across the Leonard Cohen lyrics to ‘Anthem’ and have kept the refrain printed out and taped to my computer ever since then. It goes,

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.”

I could relate so well to what he was saying, and to the words of the song.

If creativity (and recovery) were flights anywhere in the continental U.S., perfectionism would be the TSA employees at security stations in the airport investigating your tubes of mascara and toothpaste to make sure boarding those flights were as difficult as possible.

Perfectionism is like an untreated person with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) who gets stuck analyzing a lady bug on a blade of grass–unable to determine what shade of brown its dots are–instead of appreciating the view of a spectacular rose garden she’s in.

In other words, perfectionism is a bastard. Like practically every other depressive I know (read the message board of my “We Didn’t Do Our Best” post), it can cripple my efforts to live freely and happily (not to mention plaguing me with writer’s block). Left unattended, perfectionism will build a prison around me so that every shot at expressing myself is thwarted by fear of not getting it right.

“Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop–an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole,” writes Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way.” “Instead of creating freely and allowing errors to reveal themselves later as insights, we often get mired in getting the details right. We correct our originality into a uniformity that lacks passion and spontaneity. ‘Do not fear mistakes,’ Miles David told us. ‘There are none.’”

Beyond Blue has been an important exercise for me to tackle my perfectionism. When your contract stipulates you need to write two to four posts a day, you can’t afford to waste time and make each of them perfect. And my editor reminds me regularly to write from wherever I am, which is about as far from perfect as the U.S. is to New Zealand.

So I regurgitate a recent conversation I overheard, or an e-mail from a friend (like the one above), or a passage I just read from a book. Sometimes I reread the archives and cringe at the awkwardness in my phrasing, the crude content of a post. But then I remember what David Burns, M.D. wrote in “Ten Days to Self Esteem” about perfectionism:

“Our vulnerabilities and flaws–and not our successes and strengths–ultimately make us lovable and human. People can be admired or resented–but never loved–for their successes and and achievements…. Our ‘brokenness’ is essential to being human. Our failures and moments of despair can sometimes be our greatest opportunities for growth, for intimacy, for spiritual awareness, and for self-acceptance.”

Then he reiterates what Paul says in the Second Corinthians, after he begs God to remove the thorn in his flesh, that “strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). As inconvenient and bothersome as it is, our brokenness actually provides the path to beauty and strength.

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posted May 26, 2007 at 3:11 pm

This was the perfect (yes) post for a warm May morning. I needed it. Thank you.

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posted May 26, 2007 at 9:37 pm

I knew this kind of wisdom for ages, and it is in my quirks and imperfections that I found the love of my life. :)

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posted May 27, 2007 at 1:31 am

reading this post brought a well-needed tear to my eye… as a 29 year old female, with multiple degrees, options, and supportive friends and family, i suffer from the diseased plight for perfectionism. every single day, i feel “un-good enough” to the point where i suffer from anxiety and depression in secret. this particular blog is inspiration and i will print it out and post it on my ‘fridge so that can be reminded that we all NEED to be imperfect in order to be meaningful in life.

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posted May 27, 2007 at 4:24 pm

Thanks for this article! I needed to be reminded of this….People connect with our weaknesses and not our strengths. I really like the example of being in a beautiful garden and analyzing the color of the lady bugs spots. So true! It reminds me to step back from this thinking, and see the beauty that always waits to be seen.

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posted May 27, 2007 at 6:37 pm

Wow, I just wrote something like this in my journal last night. As I too have been stuck in a loop looking at the bug and not the garden.Now If I can just remember to apply this knowledge daily! Now the question, why do we feel we must be perfect? Could it be that we were told to be by our parents but witnessed them being un-perfect in their actions. In my case I was always told I wasn’t good enough, 1/2 arsed etc by my father. This turned me into a people pleaser and though I tried to please people I didn’t feel like they were trying to please me, so I dumped them. Then one day you awaken and realize you have few if any friends. All because you wanted to be perfect and you wanted to have “perfect” friends too.It all lead to major lack of appreciation issues as one can not seem to appreciate themselves or others unless all is “perfect”.

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posted May 29, 2007 at 2:02 am

Here’s the dilemma… if we do not strive for perfection, how do we (individually as well as a society) progress. We dare not be satisfied with the status-quo. Yet, each of us has those “human” elements about us, that keep us from perfection, simply because, as we change and grow, we face new situations, and we’re likely to make errors as we encounter those first-time experiences. So, as we progress, we’re faced with our own human-ness. Until we understand the fact that as we strive to improve, we’ll make errors in judgement and performance, and ultimately, that’s OK, we might be discouraged from a path of growth. There’s an interesting inaccurate translation from Greek to English in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (KJV, Matthew 5:48 ) The more accurate translation for the “perfect” is “complete, finished, fully developed.” As a Christian, I find that approaching life with the understanding that God is a personal, interactive Father in Heaven, who has provided us an opportunity to become complete, finished, and fully developed as the result of our striving toward continuous improvement while here on earth brings me great comfort. I am not perfect (in the modern english connotation) nor will I become perfect during my life here on earth. However, by trying to improve each day, I can become a more complete individual, and perhaps, along the way, help another.

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posted June 1, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Leonard Cohen has gotten me through some very tough times recently, especially the death of my mother. A friend suggested I listen to “Anthem” after I became obsessed with all versions of the song “Halleujah” which still makes me cry on demand. Both songs are about forgiveness of self in the face of life’s perplexities and God’s apparent silence. Another friend, an artist, who used to rail at God shared that “I realized, as I began painting, that with out shadow, I could not define the source of light.” Perfectionism is about ME being God..knowing what is right and perfect in a world full of wondrous, buzzing, uncontrollable chaos that will pass me by as I focus on some pointless detail. Bravo.

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Sheri R Brown

posted June 1, 2007 at 11:56 pm

Thank you for your article. I received Jesus in a nightclub. I was a drug dealer, prostitute and exotic dancer. I was so excited that Jesus loves me inspite of. To my surprise a church threw my out stating that they did not have enough love for people like me. They wanted me perfect. My mother told me that I would never be anything as well but on the streets I was everything. I tried to be perfect according to what that church said but I remembered that “I Am” when He appeared to me said He would use my life to draw many people to Himself. I thought how and why, who would listen to a dirty bird. But He took me to the scripture where He commanded the ravens to feed the prophet bread and meat during the famine. I guess seeking approval, pleasing is not what it is cracked up to be. I just be me flaws and all. I have a minstry now where I can help other crackpots. We love Jesus and His Grace. I enjoy the adventure of getting to know even more about myself and getting to know more about Him. I spill out everyday so He can pour more of Himself in.

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Kaci Lane Hindman

posted June 7, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Awesome article! God bless you and tahnk you. I can totally relate to this! Kaci Lane Hindman

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posted June 9, 2007 at 8:41 am

that article must be read by every christian aspiring to live the perfect christian life. It is simply a must read. God bless you.

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Joe black

posted June 9, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Do not fear mistakes,’ Miles David told us. ‘There are none.’”
What world you livin in?? To certain extent, your right – some people pay waaay to much attention to unnecassary detail(race,culture,religion,social status,wealth,etc.) but please don’t give people the green light into unjust deeds. Its obvious being perfect is difficult, but its soo easy not to be…which makes me wonder.

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posted June 10, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Hello! Good Site! Thanks you!

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posted June 11, 2007 at 11:14 am

As a recovering perfectionist.. your article hit right on. Thank you and for all those who have posted comments. It’s always about timing…. being ready to hear.. to understand.. to go forward.
Have a God Day!

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posted August 8, 2007 at 8:25 am

I use to say: “If I can’t do it right than why do it?”. Age has made me some what more tolerant. Albeit not totally. There are times that I find myself doing something over because it isn’t “perfect” to/for me. Or, I find myself making critical comments, if not out loud – in my head. Usually, about others work, expressions or what ever. Tolerance for other’s short comings or inabilities has blessed me with children with mental illness. Blessed me, because I needed to learn patience and tolerance. As painful as it has been I now realize that it was a lesson I needed. As though my childhood had not been enough to teach me these things. The lessons were lost to me as I was too young, then. But, in retrospect all I have had to endure has been nothing more than a repeatition of the same: A lesson in patience and tolerance. I use to wonder why I chose to incarnate through a sick woman who I felt hated women or then again just me.
I will be sixty-five years old in seven days. I have spent much time since the age of ten or there about asking the Lord: “Why am I here again?” “What do I need to learn that I have not yet learned?” Reading this site today showed me the answer I have been looking for. For far too many years. Does that mean that I can now join my little girl and others I have loved on a different plane? Or, do the ones still here need something more from me? Or, is there another lesson I have yet to learn? And what, pray tell, could it be? I will continue to read this site and maybe there will be another enlighting moment for me. Thank-you all.

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posted August 9, 2007 at 2:04 pm

I don’t know where to start. I just had major surgery (cervical neck/back) and am stuck ay home. I want everything the right way at home with all…my boyfriend and when I visited my parents we all talked, I cried, because they do not want me to do anything and I want things in order and can’t sit still, but I have to heal. My surgery was very serious.. I have a hard time giving my control away. I never really thought I was OCD or a perfectonist or a control freak, but I am snapping daily and am very anxiety ridden. I can’t drive to get out of the house and left my career as a teacher in March. It made me miearable and I was always in chronic pain. So, here I sit, 3 weeks post surgery, out of control of what I usually control, no driving, not able to take very good care of myself, and I need to get organized and I have no career lined up. I am able to do many things and have 2 books in progress, started Real Estate class online and have resumes out all over the country. What am I to do? I am snapping and crying everyday….My poor boyfirend who is the purest man in the world is putting up with all of this and thinks nothing of how I am on a rollercoaster. He is supportive and will do anything. What is wrong with me, and what am I to do? I am afraid my BiPolar Disorder is getting the best of me and I am absolutely in fear. Any one able to help? I hope others are healing, I know how it feels to struggle. Prayers to all of you.

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posted August 12, 2007 at 9:08 pm

Thanks for the reminder that we aren’t perfect, but should go on each day anyway. I was recently scolded by my parents that my household isn’t a “happy one” for my children. I had to remind them it’s not much of a happy one for me either.This made my mind go off on a tangent where depressives should not go about whether my existance is in anyway a positive one for my children or those around me. But I have to believe that doing my best has to be good enough and that my children would rather have me depressed than not at all. Theresa your thoughts and snipets are always what I need to hear and I thank you for writing even when you’d rather not. I understand what that is like. God bless.

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posted August 18, 2007 at 12:28 am


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posted August 19, 2007 at 11:13 pm

I find it hard to break free of my tendencies toward perfectionism because people around me are always offering me praise as a result of it. Whether it is an employer, teacher/professor, parent, or anyone who has noticed what I’ve accomplished, I find I get lots of praise and basically am told to “keep it up”. Inside I am usually thinking, no I should not keep it up I should ease up, but then it seems those people would be disappointed in me for not living up to expectations. But, I like people who can and do make mistakes, and not so much those who seem to always be perfect. Even though I understand their need to be perfect! Such a dilemma, but in the end I believe its far more healthy and peaceful to work on stopping those annoying tendencies toward perfection so as to also rid myself of the entirely unwanted problems I have with anxiety and depression. I think it’s handy sometimes to keep in mind that as we deal with our perfectionism, there are many others who are struggling just as much each day to get themselves to work, study, etc., harder!

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posted August 22, 2007 at 3:22 am

You are doing great things. You seem like a highly intelligent woman in your struggles and inspire me in my black hole. I feel less like dependent and pathetic. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

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posted September 1, 2007 at 1:44 pm

Wow, what a point of clarity! I had been feeling quite worthless after a series of failed financial activities and personal/family relationship disappointments. Not because I cannot get over things, but these setbacks challenged the one gift I really thought I had a tight hold on – discernment. It was the one area that I felt that I would never fail to utilize “perfectly”.
Well, there is no perfection when it comes to people, places, things, and actions. Our logic, intelligence, self indulged truth, and “right” is foolishness to Him. We are truly only perfected in and through Him, and in the personage of Jesus Christ.

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posted September 1, 2007 at 9:16 pm

I have struggled for 22 years with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
to the extent, at times, of being unable to work. Obviously, I
have also struggled with perfectionism.
Some things that have helped me involve “self-talk”. Although I
may not believe things I say to myself initially, even though I
know they’re right, eventually I do come to beleive them. Positive
brain-washing, really.
Things I say are, “good enough”. Because my “good enough” is still
better than 95% of the work completed out there. Also, along the
same lines, I say to myself, “right!” Does it work all the time? No.
But it works enough times to use it. I also say to myself, “don’t
look so hard for the tree that you miss the forest.”
Try to inject a little humor into your situation. When I go
overboard on something, my girlfriend will say, “you’re being
quite Monkish.” (Reference to “Monk”, the OCD detective on USA
network). And she’s right, and I can laugh at myself.
Just do your best, and don’t be concerned with being perfect.

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posted September 21, 2007 at 5:57 pm

I understand the perfectionism/OCD connection. I struggle with it constantly. A friend told me recently that a writing teacher told her, “Lower your standards,” and she taped this to her computer. Otherwise, she would never get anything finished.
Cohen’s song reminds me of this, by Rumi:
Don’t turn away.
Keep your gaze on the bandaged place.
That’s where the light enters you.

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posted September 26, 2007 at 3:29 pm

I try to remember “imperfect is perfect.” Life is so much richer and meaning-filled because of the struggle. One pop-culture reference that I think displays this beautifully is the movie Pleasantville. Anyone seen it? It’s about a “perfect” 1950′s family sitcom world that has to change – become more complicated, much less “perfect” – to really be beautiful, to really capture the staggering amazingness that is the human experience…

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Hyacinth Sherene Brohier

posted October 11, 2007 at 12:18 pm

In other words, perfectionism is a bastard. Like practically every other depressive I know (read the message board of my “We Didn’t Do Our Best” post), it can cripple my efforts to live freely and happily (not to mention plaguing me with writer’s block). Left unattended, perfectionism will build a prison around me so that every shot at expressing myself is thwarted by fear of not getting it right
Commenting on the above …a well balance person may also use the words ” We/I didn’t do our Best ” but to self realise is wonderful….life after many years of living teaches you that everything you do is reiterative that is how processes products & servcies get better and better ……it is an in built enocuragement that moves human beings into being better tomorrow than you are today! everything is possible if you give yourself enough time that you require for your iterative process, many people think that wokr and life is a rat race ….sometimes it is better to take some time initially and device a system that will save time in the future and when protyping we all build from one stage to the other….. even in life …you are a better person in everything you do from one day to the next or one week to the next or one month to the next or one year to the next or one millenium to the next millenum ….In ohter word the opening statmetn is not procrastination but an inbuilt competitiveness to make our lives a bit more easier……

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posted October 13, 2007 at 4:39 am

Just lost, late at night…early in the morning. I have a big, bold print out on 8 1/2 by 11 on my wall, the one on the far right, fourth row up, written in a fit of positive thinking: I LOVE MY LIFE, ALL OF IT. EVEN THE PAIN. THERE LIES LOVE. I don’t look at it very often. My 9 year old grandson read the first line out loud a few days ago while we stopped in at my apartment. I didn’t look up, until I came back much later. Maybe its right after all.
Thanks T.

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posted November 25, 2007 at 6:01 pm

I’ve been “moping around” since my Mom died a month ago, knowing that the moping is justified but also facing new and unwanted childhood and adulthood monsters ie: perfectionism. Mom raised me with one eyebrow down all the time so I’m constantly looking over my shoulder waiting for the “look” of disappointment. How powerful a force it has been all these years. Reading such articulate descriptions of how perfectionism is affecting us has struck the deepest cord of my depression. Thank you for articulating cuz I couldn’t do it myself.

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Mourna Conner

posted January 17, 2008 at 10:28 am

I know I am far from perfect, but strive to do things and see things and hear in a more attuned manor so as to befit not just me but all that surrounds me.In being this way many see me as a perfectionist, my family expects so much more from me to the point I feel I always have to try to be as PERFECT as I am seen.

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posted January 28, 2008 at 10:46 pm

I am my own worst enemy. As I too, think that I let everyone down if I don’t always do the right thing. In return this makes us judge others if they don’t.
This makes life miserable and I think this cycle is formed at an early age….like when mom said, “What did you do that for?” Unfortanetly, we strive at an early age to please and can’t understand when others don’t.
Learning to love ones self and have acceptance can be hard but, I’m trying. We also need to stop judging ourselves and take time to enjoy the present.

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posted February 23, 2008 at 11:10 am

My perfectionism has painted me into an emotional corner. It has crippled me in terms of asking for help from anyuone, except strangers/i.e.professionals. I have been blessed whti several people in my life who love me unconditionally and would help if I asked, but I find it nearly impossible to do so.
For so long I have been porotrayed as the stable, sensible, self-sufficent single mom who has nearly all the answers and rarely, if ever, has any problems. I have learned to play the role with few, if any chinks in my armor, and I have begun to believe the hype myself.
Only the past three years of my life have shown me that not having problems only happens if you don’t live. I still find it hard to ask my family members for anything because of the image they have of me–the one that I gave them for so long.
If anyone reading this post is guilty of the same thing, stop now before you get to this point. It’s not helpful to keep those who love you from seeing your vulnerability. It becomes a prison!!!

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posted April 5, 2008 at 5:31 pm

PERFECT!!!??? No way, I am to human for that!! I am in love with ME. I love LOVE.

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posted April 7, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Thank you so much for your beautiful words and quotations of insight!
I have suffered from the need to do things perfectly most of my life and I’m finally setting myself free ~ because of you I have a newfound awareness of how it has truly affected the quality of my life. I am printing copies of Leonard Cohen’s inspiring “Anthem” for everyone I deeply care about. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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posted May 17, 2008 at 5:42 am

“The world is prettier to a nearsighted person.” The near-sighted person cannot see detail or clarity and consequently instead sees a blur. Rather than seeing the outline of a light bulb, he or she sees a bright beautiful glow. A nearsighted person is less likely to see mistakes. The nearsighted person sees the whole beautiful picture in its entirety which is often prettier than each individual component standing alone by itself. Being nearsighted prohibits one from looking for mistakes and imperfections, and that sort of “blindness” to error is what makes the world much prettier.

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posted May 18, 2008 at 8:04 pm

I have my 2nd grade report card where the teacher commented that I had to accept that nobody is perfect. It is still a daily struggle to accept my mistakes and flaws. As an adult i realize some of this came from trying to win approval of my acoholic step-father. I remind myself that I am a work in progress and that my flaws are part of my charm. Perfect is impossible as well as boring.

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posted May 19, 2008 at 10:49 am

If you carefully choose in which projects you want to polish you are never imprisoned instead you rise above.

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posted May 19, 2008 at 5:58 pm

I am just learning about how this has consumed my life. I’m glad I read this post.

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posted May 20, 2008 at 10:45 pm

You I was Reading this..I realised perfectionism was something I Didn’t was something that was Fashioned and Encouraged in me, from my father,from the Getgo.
As I Read This..Supressed memories started flooding back **I Could Never Before This seem to remember much of Anything from my youth before 11 years old**
Circa Age 4:
Some Parents,when they watch their children Color, encourage them to stay inside the lines..My Father Took it One Step Further. Always Before Even Beginning to shade in the designated art..that we were to Trace Over the Black Outlines of Each Detail with Hard Pressed,Make Your Fingers Turn Stark White and Fiery Pink -Pressure Pressed Thick Crayon..To Not only Stay Inside the Lines..but To Create A Physical Barrier to Literally Make It DamnNear Impossible To Go Outside what The Original Artist Intented in Black and white….and the Shade Within Always Paler and Lighter Than The Barriers..Cause According To Him,it was Prettier and Cleaner That Way.My Dad Hung The Moon in Those Days.
I Realise Now..Soo Much of my Fear/Conformity/Imprisonment was Bred Into Me Camoflaged as a Desirable Trait..What a Friggin Lie.
It Pains me and Frees Me Now,This Sudden a Way,I’m certain some of you might appreciate…That Simultaneously Enrages Me,Makes Me Weep and Laugh All At The SAme Time Now..This Very Moment.
It’s Not All MY Fault.. It WASn’t MY FAULT.
Kids Sometimes Do Fall Down and Get Concussions, Cause in their Excitement over doing their Very First Backhandspring Perfectly and Without a Spot,All By Themselves on the Balance Beam, with no one watching, When they jump down..**After Perfect Execution of Said Feat**not Thinking Or Caring about their landing on the Damned Thick Padding, Meant to Insure They Wouldn’t Be Hurt,Causes Them To Fall Backward with all their weight,and Bump The Back Their Head on the Very Beam They Just Conquered and Kicked Dependancy & Fears’ Arse Upon.
Dad Said He Was Afraid he was Gonna Lose Me.. that I Didn’t Even Recognise Him When He Took Me To The Hospital after I’d Suddenly had seizures in the car on the ride home from practice.. He Took Me Out of Gymnastics Immediately After That..Forbade Me to Ever Do it Again. He Never Believed Me When I Told Him, It Wasn’t the was The Stupid Padding..My Flawed Landing AFTER.
Damnit DAD..Kids Get Hurt.. It’s Part Of LIFE.You Don’t Just STOP Taking Chances…You Don’t MAKE Them sTop Growing Cause YOU’re Scared.
Funny..To This DAy, I’m Terrified To Do Anything Ballsy, Unless I’m Certain I Can Land on My Feet Perfectly..**Need I TEll YOU, it’s NEVER CERTAIN Nor PERFECT** Everything Scares Me Now.
I Think..
I Think I Was 11 The Last Time I Did Anything Brave..
*sigh* Is it Any Wonder I Couldn’t Remember much of Anything Before then??
Well I Remember Now..I KNOW. And I Get The Feeling..Alot of Things Are Gonna Change With Me From This Point On..
I’M in Charge Now..LOL..2 Decades Later.. NOW I Finally Know Where it All Started.. Now I Can Begin To Unravell It..And Reweave My Beautifully Imperfect Tapestry,Without Worrying about Failing in HIS Sight…and I’ll just Have To learn To Be Better Prepared For Was Never The Failure that Was The Problem, Was Coming Down After Being on Cloud Nine ** with No one There To See Me Or Encourage Me TO Succeed Nor Witness It When I Did*. I CAN Live Through The Bumps and Scrapes.
I Think I’ll Go Out and Buy a Kid’s Coloring book…Shade in Everything The Wrong Color..and make it my Mission to Go Outside the lines..No Friggin Crayon Barrier To Hold Everything in “It’s Proper Place”…For The Very First Time In All of My 31 Years.
When I FINALLY Have My Own Kids..I Swear..No Designated Art..only Blank Sheets And Canvases..They Can Draw Forest Green Bunny Ears On A Hot Pink Airplane with Only 1 Bright Purple Wheel if They Damned Well Please.
Thanks for The BreakThrough..You Have No Idea,,What It Is You’ve Done.
Thank You from the Very Bottom of my Healing Heart.

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posted June 12, 2008 at 11:12 am

Wow, what a wake up call…again. That’s it! I am stuck in the details always correcting in an effort to please. When I write “off the top of my head” with passion and spontaneity, I like what I wrote and feel so free. Who am I really trying to please? Lifelong habits do not break easily. I must see it as an excuse to succeed. I needed this article. Thank you.

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posted June 12, 2008 at 11:33 am

Fear of not being “good enough” has kept me from doing so many things in my life that I might have actually enjoyed. Fear of others laughing at me, of thinking that I might look ridiculous…all of this has hindered me in my personal and professional growth.
My mother was also a perfectionist, so I learned at the knee of an expert. It’s taken me a very long time to even begin to contemplate doing things that I’m not good at. Now, here’s the question that begs answering: Who defines what “good” is?
I’ve come to realize that I have a very harsh and critical internal judge. I picture her as looking like a very mean version of Judge Judy. Everytime I start to think that I might be worthwhile, she bangs her gavel and begins her critical diatribe. So, I’ve started trying to visualize the Judge with a large piece of duct tape over her mouth.

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posted June 12, 2008 at 11:43 am

People can’t help it when they were born….7/25

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spirit of the living

posted June 13, 2008 at 8:29 am

I realised this habit was wrong when the priest told me it was a sin to be a perfectionest and shedding this i grew into the devine love of our father and now enjoy unconditional love of everyone in my life what peace

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posted June 13, 2008 at 10:51 am

I thank you for reminding me who I really am . And who God has createdme to be. We thank you.

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posted June 14, 2008 at 2:46 pm

I woke up at 2:00 am and could not go back to sleep. My mind went to this title about perfectionism. I have gained an extra ten pounds, and seem to be going through so many changes at 60 years old. I have been single for 32 years and raised three children by myself. My two younger children died. My daughter died in 1984, with a congenital-lung and heart defect at 16; and, my son of suicide at 27, in 1997. While I have been in therapy and counseling with others to work on my issues, I know something is holding me back, keeping me from thriving. I struggle with my writing and my speaking, just about everything which would expand my practice, because of the fears related to not “doing it perfectly.” Fortunately, I am ready to wake up to me.
When my daughter died in 1984, before the days of heart transplants and any death and dying counseling with the exception of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (EKR) thank God, the only help you could get was with a Chaplain at the hospital. The Bible really did not help in the thro’s of death with a child who had heart spasms–mild heart attacks typically five out of seven nights wherein she would be on oxygen for at least an hour. I think I carried or held her at least one-half of her life. She obviously could not run, ride a bike, or walk more than half a block. Walking to school or going to the Mall with girlfriends was not an option. Getting ready for school took sometimes more than two hours. My life could not start until after she was able to get moving. She was also very blue and cyanotic at times because of poor circulation, becoming the butt of jokes from uncaring or thoughtless kids and adults. Our lives simply revolved around her and my two beautiful boys had no choice but to accept crumbs of energy from me. They indeed slipped through the cracks.
Being a reformed Baptist who studied religion and mythology, there would be no comfort coming from a Chaplain. So, I began studying with Stephen Levine and EKR, reaching a facilitator level. I traveled all over the world looking for someone who would teach me about death and dying to ease some of the pain and trauma of the past 16 years. My husband left me with three children ages 11, 8 and 5 after an ugly affair and a divorce in 1976. I was awarded $100.00 a month alimony for one year and $450.00 monthly child support for three children. I was court-ordered to move out of the family home, proceeds went to my husband’s trust and he moved to the East Coast with no capacity to even visit the children. There was never a break. It was wicked and only got worse as the congenital heart and lung defect caused her to go into heart failure. She died one Sunday morning at 16 1/2 years old. We were devastated.
Easy to think you have done something horribly wrong especially with mainstream religion. So where does perfectionism come in? Sounds like my Dad. My Mother died when I was eight, and my stepmother when I was 16. Death has been a constant companion in my life since I can remember. My life-long angry and abusive Father always said we did not appreciate my Mother or Stepmother, the reason why God took them to heaven. Somewhere inside of me, I still think I have done something wrong having lost my children, Mother and partner.
After my daughter’s death, my two sons and I would never be the same. We had no conception of anything normal as compared to other people. My youngest son never got his life back; thereby, ending his tortured life in a very brutal suicide. Alice Miller’s quote in Drama of the Gifted Child explained this so well: “It is easy to end something that wasn’t his in the first place.” My elder son, now 42 still remains withholding and sad deep inside. His Father is very narcissistic, lives four blocks from him with little or no contact. His father and I have not had a conversation and he had no contact with our youngest son for 15 years since he was 12 years old. He dumped him off at a State
Boarding School and made no effort to see him. Dad wanted a tidy, neat life. Grief and loss, death and dying is messy.
In the face of such abandonment, I think it’s easy to see that trying to be perfect could be a worthy goal. Perfect seemed to be normal for everyone else. Crazy for certain, obsessive-compulsive? Absolutely!
With absolutely no prior experience, I became a much sought-after teacher and counselor, writing and giving classes after my daughter died. I could not find anyone who was skilled enough to talk to me about my losses. There were absolutely no resources. Compelled to not let others go through the isolation and fears related to terminal illness, I put together an entire series to present to Children’s Hospital, churches, clubs, anywhere they would let me speak. Unity, Science of Mind, and a wonderful First Baptist were open to my work. I was very successful at this time and nothing could shut me up.
I became one a pioneer in the field of Grief and Loss, Death and Dying. I have been told that I came to do this work. This is true. So certified with EKR, and studies with others like Stephen Levine, Ram Dass, Gerald Jampolsky, a few mystics, and years of study, I am one of the leading Psychologists in this field.. Ultimately, I returned to school, finished a graduate degree, then my Ph.D. I am paying off a $100,000 school loan.
While I was lying in bed in the early morning quiet, the e-mail on Perfectionism which I had deleted came to mind. And, after being awake in and out of sleep, my Daughter came to me. I have been waiting forty years for this to happen. I could feel her presence and first was awkward as I came out of a dream about her. We talked for just a short time and I went back to sleep. I have only felt her presence one other time. The first time was the day after she died. We shared our knowing we did the best for each other and she was so incredibly peaceful. An awe-inspiring gift.
I got up this morning to retrieve your article. I now understand why some things are not coming to me. Abundance, the wonderful relationship I have wanted for so many years. All perfectionism. You never could have convinced me of this yesterday.
So be it…my work is starting again to rid myself of the idea that there is any thing perfect—just everything and everybody. Now maybe I can also write and continue being the outrageous woman I am. Words are going to flow and I love my life. So this will be the new me as this becomes the first piece I have written in years since my Ph.D. Thank you for your article. Well written and a beautiful gift for me this morning. I wish you much joy and happiness in your endeavors.

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fig tree

posted June 15, 2008 at 11:51 pm

perfectionism is a hard one to let go of. i am constantly waiting for the right moment to let go, the right circumstances, the right way, etc., to not have to be perfect. my ongoing dilemna is believing that i need to either be perfect before i can let go and just be myself or that i have to do the letting go a certain way. i try really hard to let go of rituals because it is impossible to get those right. still, with all the cognitive therapy i have done over the past 20 i am still entrapped by my fear of letting go. i keep at it no matter what and do believe a day will come.

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posted June 27, 2008 at 12:58 am


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posted July 1, 2008 at 12:19 pm

My Fellow United Statesmen:
Now pay attention. There will be a quiz on this later.

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posted July 1, 2008 at 12:24 pm

My fellow seekers after truth.
According to one source there was only one perfect person who ever walked on the face of this earth.
We know what happened to him.
This fact should give one cause for pause on being pefect.

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Darius K.

posted July 4, 2008 at 4:47 am

It is a rather awakening comment and expectation from yourself to strive for perfection. Although there is nothing wrong with looking toward the stars I caution each and everyone to remember that you may not make it as far as you would have expected. But I also implore you to continue to wish and dream upon that star. For as one of my good friends would like to say” Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream.” So, in other words I am trying to communicate to you that after you have finished your peaceful sleep or just your illustrious daydream realize it is time to wake up. In waking you must do like my Grandmother use to say” Do not tarry!”

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posted July 4, 2008 at 5:17 am

I’m ok with trying to be perfect in what i do. It means that i set high standards for my work. The trouble is that i expect the same thing from my staff and i tend to criticize even though i know that i have to be encouraging of their efforts.

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Trinidad Gutierrez

posted July 8, 2008 at 10:26 am

My husband says that my weakness is perfectionism. I thought it was good to be this way. And I still do. But I have to understand that not everybody thinks or is the same way as I am. Everybody’s different in their own way and they too have a gift to share with the world. And that balances my way of thinking.

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posted July 11, 2008 at 10:58 pm

Expecting all to strive to the level of perfection that “WE” expect from ourselves ….just putting it into print puts it into perspective…how did I reach this point ?

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