Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Perfectionism and Reclaiming The Doing

Peculiar Momma aka Shaletann wrote an especially pertinent post about perfectionism recently, and boy, did I really need to read it today. She gave me much to think about.

Sometimes I get so jealous of people who accomplish great & beautiful things. Sometimes I'm more sad than jealous because I am not accomplishing those things. I'm not as wonderful/confident/accomplished... blahblahblah.

I "do" a lot of things, but as she said, I don't always feel I can "claim" them. As if we can't use the noun to describe what we are verbing?

I must be a cook because I DO COOK, but my standards of what I should be to claim it are absurd. I am a photographer, but I don't have a "serious" camera or sell prints or have won fame and acclaim. I still call myself a photographer. I heartily resist being shoehorned into someone else's ideal of what a label means.

Now, my own ideals are harder to live with. I am cursed with high standards. And of course, I can never live up to my high aspirations because there is always a higher ideal. All I can do is follow my joys and desires and Do The Thing, whatever that is.

Some of the things I actually DO:

Photograph, See, Capture


Keep track of my schedule

Find new ways to organize

Write, Read, Edit & Shape





Console, Welcome & Inspire

Think, Dream, Envision, Problem-solve







Notice & Identify Wildflowers & Wildbirds

Play, Breathe, Smile, Dance

I notice that some (but not all) people are contributing to the curse. If you say you are a ____ (fill in the blank), others may start asking if you have accomplished this or that to test you. And if you don't measure up to their standards, they ask you how you can be a _____.

They sometimes even get offended that you claim the label. "How can you be a ___? You don't even ___!" Perhaps we have even spent our formative years being told, "You are not a ___. Don't think you are so special." Holy cow, what does that say to a person's self?!

Listen, I don't say I do all of these things well, I just say I do them. As long as I write, I am a writer, no matter how purple the ink might get.

I'd like to be good at them, these lovely ideals, but why should I justify what (or for that matter, why) I do?

It's sad, though, that of my whole list above, only a few items are immune to my feeling the need to qualify or justify myself. I've been retraining myself to avoid my habitual self-deprecation, You fraud, you!. Now stop it, I tell myself. You are too!

I remind myself that the Doing is more important than the ideal. The doing justifies that I am Someone Who Does The Thing, yes? Even if I don't it well!

I love this quote from Shaletann :
This imperfect blanket is perfect for keeping my lap warm on chilly nights. Just as my messy house is a perfect shield against the rain and wind. Smooshed cupcakes still taste delectable and my scuffed shoes still protect my feet.

Why should our lives and our Doing be trapped in a cage of perfectionistic standards? That is not real life. Even nature's kernels of perfection are wrapped in chaos. We can spend our life's energy making beauty and striving towards perfection, and that is inspiring, but any so-called "perfection" is wrapped in a lot of imperfect Doing.

Shaletann points out that Perfection Doesn't [really] Exist. I would add, At least outside of our own heads. The inner perfectionist is all too ready to pounce on an imperfectly achieved doing. I'm already grumbling to myself about restructuring this post. And yet, and yet...

There is joy in the Doing. There is joy in the Having Done. There is joy in claiming that you are One Who Does. Thank you to Shaletann for reminding me.

And I am so happy to do the things I do. I am a photographer, a writer, a cook, a performer, a caring friend. Doing is delectable even if a little smooshed. Yum. What a delicious life!


Magpie Girl said...

Good Morning. I just stopped by to say "I SEE you." Thank you for putting your art, and your heart, out into the world.

Much Warmth,


Shalet said...

Good for you and all you do! You are perfect just the way you are.