I’m a perfectionist. I’ve been that way for a long time. I still remember one time in 3rd grade, I got one question wrong out of twenty on a spelling test and started to cry. It was that important to me to be perfect.
In some ways, my perfectionism has served me well. It allowed me to do well in school and my job. In the areas of my life where I had some skill or talent, it provided the drive to succeed and be my best.
In other ways, my perfectionism hasn’t served me well. When I didn’t do something well, or failed, I struggled to cope with the feelings that came along with the failure. I remember one year I busted my butt to try to be the best cross-country runner I could, but I still ended up near the back of the pack. I tried my best, but in the end, it didn’t result in high-level performance.
Perfectionism has been tough on my relationships as well. I have the expectation that I will be perfect, and then I put that expectation on others as well. This doesn’t usually work out because no one is perfect. The unrealistic expectation causes added pressure that relationships struggle to hold.
In my own life, I’m trying to move from “perfect” to “good enough.” One underlying fear driving my perfectionism is that my life and relationships won’t meet my needs, and I won’t be happy. “Good enough” addresses this fear. I’m not wandering aimlessly in my life, okay with whatever comes my way. I want positive experiences and good relationships.
But “good enough” also recognizes the reality of life—our experiences and relationships are a mix of good and bad. No experience is perfect, and no relationship is perfect. To require perfection, you must disengage from experiences and relationships. To the extent that I want to engage with my life, I have to be okay with good enough.
Discussion: Do you struggle with perfectionism? What do you think about the shift from “perfect” to “good enough?”