The topic of perfectionism has come up quite a bit in my office lately. This idea about wanting to be perfect or get the best score, best grades, or be the best parents runs rampant. We are all trying to win some unnamed race to prove what exactly?
That we are “winning” at life? That we are somehow doing “better” than the person sitting next to us? Because this would somehow make us more likable? I remind people all the time that those “perfect” people, at least the ones we perceive to be perfect are generally somewhat annoying to others because they don’t seem “real” to everyone else. In my humble opinion, being genuine is a much better quality than perfection.
I remember some time ago hearing that someone had made a mistake that had ended a relationship. Someone I might consider older and wiser at that time commented, “She’s doing the best she can with what she has.” I never forgot this and think about this often. Today, having children, a husband, a job, and friendships to keep up, it’s not always easy. Even when we appear to have it all together, any honest conversation with a friend will remind us that this is hard and we are far from perfect! I was standing around a kitchen with a few friends who are also relatively new moms and the general topic was, “No one tells you how hard this all is!” Maybe no one told us, or maybe they did, and we just didn’t fully grasp it because we tend not to fully believe others until we have experienced something for ourselves.
I think a lot about doing the best we can. There are a number of therapeutic approaches that have this as a basic belief: People are doing the best they can in this moment. If they could do better, they would. How can we believe this for ourselves and others more often? Working to stop judging others, stop thinking that someone should make a different choice, especially when it does not effect us? Or even more important, stop judging ourselves?! Letting go of the expectation of wanting to have the clean house, the successful job, healthy dinner on the table, the kids dressed and at school on time, get some exercise in, and try to not screw everything up completely?
As we always strive to be better and grow for our own well being, lets also work to stop telling ourselves that we need to be better now and that we are a failure if we cannot get everything done or cannot fit whatever mold we are trying to squeeze ourselves into. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. Let’s strive to have more compassion for one another’s struggles and remember that no matter how much one appears to have everything together, there’s usually more than what meets the eye. Let’s also work on being more honest about these things and stop trying to “best” our neighbor while suffering alone. Displaying love for one another will breed much more positive energy in our lives than any judgments we put on ourselves or others. So let’s focus on that: Love. Loving ourselves. Loving our people. Loving our life. This is doing the best we can and our best is pretty spectacular!