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Perfectly Imperfect

Friday reflections: It's been a hell of a week, as I'm sure it has been for all of us as we emerge from the pandemic matrix of the past year, ripe with stress, exhaustion, grief, and fear of the unknown, sprinkled with fresh ideas and hopes for the future. I say this wearing the odd combination of commercial banker / depth psychologist hats I'm trying to balance at any given moment. Listening in on yet another virtual forecast of how to move forward from the wake of destruction from the novel virus, an economist dropped Voltaire's parlance into his outlook. It resonated.

I wonder, how is this proverb alive in your life? I'd really like to know, if you care to share. Personally, I catch myself where this internal dynamic holds me back from the progress of creative momentum, and I try to unravel what it is that I am holding on to psychologically, spiritually, or otherwise to move forward with certain things.

When I wrote my dissertation, my mom coached me to not let perfectionism spiral me into the hot mess that I often was, and just let it be good enough as it was. "A good dissertation is a done dissertation," as they say. This was a particular problem when I stopped writing for several months, stuck in my head and imposter complex reared up with vengeance as my beautiful beast of a friend, panic attacks (see book rec below). Mom offered such good advice, but as a spiritual teacher of mine, Teal Swan, pointed out this week, suggesting that someone not behave a certain way they are inherently oriented is no easy task for the afflicted. It is hard to rewire our brains and behaviors when internal neurotic loops are deep aspects of ourselves. Imagine my inner "see, I told you so" battle when I found typos in the published dedication page of my precious work! (Where the hell did they come from when I read that paper a hundred times and so did an editor??!! I know it is psyche having a laugh at my expense, but it stings and I think about it almost every day.)

Ah, a peak inside neuroticism ...

I drive myself crazy with this perfectionist shit. During school, one of my closest friends scolded me when I lamented over the one "B" that ruined my perfect GPA. She said that I was insensitive to others because good grades don't come easily to everyone. Me, insensitive? I am a highly sensitive person with all that it brings. Maybe I was insensitive, but I didn't mean to be. The truth hurts. Thanks to my soul-sister friend for the aha moment that came after a raging internal fit of embarrassment. But, not to minimize her viewpoint, I don't want to minimize mine either. For me, and those balled up with a perfectionist complex, this is a painful part of our reality. I don't want to be this way, and certainly hope I didn't make my kids suffer from it. (Shit, I probably did. Please forgive me, beauties.) But, I kindly gaze at my interiority and know it is a real human emotion and experience of the world that contributes to generalized anxiety disorder- at least it does to mine, despite lots of inner work.

This battle applies to communities and individuals and often impedes the flow of meaningful progress born out of inspired vision. You see it played out in politics, cities, companies, and small groups. Rooted deep within, perfectionism is as aspect of trauma, along with its kissing cousins, shame, people-pleasing, and fear of reprisal from not being good enough, and is noticeable when you get psychologically triggered from poking at the wound.

Paraphrases of this observation have famously been used by Churchill to Steinbeck to capture the archetypal quality of lived experience. If you feel like journeying, try to see where you are in this internal battle and query where it comes from. Or, another exercise is to observe where this cultural complex creeps in as a society. The doctor of philosophy in me offers the best practice here is to embrace the good against the abyss of the 'best' as Voltaire originally wrote, or the 'perfect' as the modern expression is known, and let your path be good, for the greater good. Kiss it forward.