stack of pebbles perfectly balanced
Image by Nandhu Kumar 

How can perfectionism be a stumbling block on the path? Having the compulsive need to be perfect can be very hard on anyone. Often people aren't aware that they are perfectionists, unless it is pointed out to them or they begin to recognize the trait within themselves.

Often, the reason people fail to see it is that they often feel they are coming up short or not making the mark. Because they aren't able to bring about the perfect conditions that they desire, these people tend to view themselves not as perfectionists, but as failures. They feel devastated, believing that they are not succeeding in reaching their goals. Convinced that they are lacking in some way, they are compelled to work harder and harder to make things come out perfectly. Unfortunately, they also expect the same of others.

This situation causes great anxiety and turmoil in the people around a perfectionist. It may be that others don't share that drive for perfection, and they can't see what all the fuss is about. They can't understand why anyone would want to become so upset about something that seems so insignificant to them. They can't understand how someone can make him -- or herself -- virtually sick over some trifle that doesn't really matter much in their eyes.

Perfectionism: A Problem All Around

Being a perfectionist creates problems, not only for the individual who suffers from it, but for those around them. For example, working for a boss who is a perfectionist is hard on everyone in the office. People walk around on "eggshells," not knowing what to expect. They're constantly waiting for "the other shoe to drop," which in most cases, it does.

Where does this need to be perfect come from? Maybe we grew up with a parent who had the problem. This sort of thing is often carried on down to the next generation. As a child begins to feel he or she is inadequate due to their inability to live up to the standards of the parent, they tend to enter the same cycle of working hard in order to please. This becomes a compulsive inner need, and if we asked them about it, they probably wouldn't have the slightest idea why they have such a drive. In most cases, they wouldn't even recognize it because they don't see themselves or their situation objectively. Further, because they focus on what is lacking instead of what is there, their cup is always half empty instead of half full. This is unfortunate as it tends to take the joy out of life.

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Seeing the Flaws Instead of the Beauty of the Whole?

Always seeing what needs to be done rather than looking at what has been accomplished can leave one feeling incomplete and exhausted. Further, if we're always seeing the flaw rather than the beauty of the whole design, we cheat ourselves and others by not giving credit where it is due. Instead, we're always looking for what is wrong.

There is also the feeling that we are always inadequate because we are constantly comparing ourselves with others. Feeling our job is never good enough no matter what it is we're doing can leave us feeling negatively about ourselves. Even if we do accomplish something that seems perfect in our eyes, it is only a drop in the bucket.

When we expect perfection it is usually in many, if not all, areas of our lives. So even if we do achieve one thing well, it gives us very little comfort: there is always the next challenge to meet. The real fact is that perfectionism never ends. Consequently, we are perpetually looking ahead, feeling frustrated at our need to go through life never making mistakes and whipping ourselves when we do.

It's OK to Make Mistakes

Growing up in this kind of environment is unhealthy for children and can be harmful to their self-esteem. If we learn to be gentle with ourselves and realize that it's okay to make mistakes, even if others are not happy with us, we become much healthier, self-accepting people. We also go easier on others, and consequently we're much more enjoyable to be with.

As we learn to accept ourselves with our mistakes and to welcome God's will for us on any given day, we relax. Relaxing is important on the spiritual path. As we relax the personality -- the brain and the mind -- we can allow the spirit self to take over. We then allow ourselves to pick up the intuitive thoughts that try so hard to reach us through our anxieties and our fears. Further, as we stop trying to control, we allow our higher power to run our lives. It will direct our next move and comfort us when we err.

There's nothing wrong with making mistakes -- big or small. We're on the earth to learn. If we were truly meant to be perfect, we would not be here. We're not here to demonstrate how we can control ourselves and everyone around us so that the world can be perfect in our eyes. We must remember that we have limited vision, so our view of what is perfect may differ from God's view.

Therefore, we shouldn't be dismayed when we see our imperfections, whether they are physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. We are all human, and we need to recognize the humanity as well as the humility in ourselves and others. If we are perfectionists, let's be glad that we have ample time and opportunity to grow. We'll be happier if we see ourselves from a new and healthy perspective.

Allowing Ourselves to Relax

So let's leave the prospect of being perfect to the Creator that created us. Further, let's begin to understand that this trait is something we can overcome as we allow ourselves to be who we are. At the same time, we must allow others the same privilege.

We will be far more content when we allow ourselves to relax and let the spirit within bring things to their proper conclusions. Leaving the results to our Higher Power, while we take care of the footwork, is a good policy to follow. And ...well, if things don't turn out to be perfect in our eyes, maybe they weren't meant to. Let's trust in the God of our own understanding to know what is best both for ourselves and for others.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Savage Press. ©1999.

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The Awakening of the Heart: The Soul's Journey From Darkness Into Light
by Jill Downs.

book cover of The Awakening of the Heart: The Soul's Journey From Darkness Into Light by Jill Downs.A great guide for all who desire to live with confidence. Learn how to get back to the basics by letting go. The simple, yet profound truths found herein can enhance anyone's journey of the heart. Jill Downs' words reflect a compassionate and magical universe. The message is calm, encouraging, strong and sure.

This book may well become your daily companion as you walk the spiritual walk, because it talks the spiritual talk in a way that is understandable yet profound.

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About The Author

photo of Jill DownsJill Downs has a B.A. in sociology and has worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), has facilitated family groups in recovery and has experience working with the elderly in nursing homes and the dying in hospice. She has created and facilitated workshops on personal and spiritual growth. She has served as Board President of the Lake Superior Interfaith Community church and was instrumental in creating a learning center there. Her intuitive skills were developed through work in spiritual counseling and teaching meditation classes in the community. 

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