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Pavel Somov, Ph.D. Headshot

New Perfectionism: a Platform of Self-Acceptance

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There are two ways to look at yourself and reality: a) dualistically--as either perfect or imperfect, or b) non-dualistically--as neither perfect nor imperfect. So, there is your choice of psychological software: seeing the world as a discrepancy between what is and what should be or seeing the world as it is, in its perfect imperfection, its completely incomplete suchness. The following 10 points are a kind of new operating platform to serve as an antidote to the dichotomous/dualistic/all-or-nothing cognitive style that is the cause of perfectionistic suffering.

1. A state that is so flawless, so immaculate, so error free, so complete that nothing can be added to it to make it better is a state beyond improvement. That is theoretical perfection.

2. Practical perfection is a state that is beyond improvement not because it is immaculate, flawless, or error free, but because it has been completed and is now fact.

3. Every moment, by virtue of it being already a fact, is complete. Thus, it is also a state of perfection--a state beyond improvement. This isn't fantasy. It is reality at its practical best.

4. You are part of this reality. You are neither perfect nor imperfect. "Perfect" and "imperfect" are words. You are not words. You are everything you have ever been up to this moment, and no one moment or word can define you in your entirety and complexity. You are what you are, in your suchness.

5. To believe that what happened should not have happened and that what didn't happen should have happened is a violation of causality.

6. It is understandable to want only "this" part of reality and not want "that" part of reality, to want "this" part of yourself and not "that" part of yourself. But while it's possible to want to divide the indivisible, it's not actually possible to do so. Reality is this and that, in its suchness. Any attempt to cut the indivisible whole in half is a departure from reality.

7. Splitting what is into good/bad, perfect/imperfect, proper/improper, success/failure, and so on creates false dichotomies. A false dichotomy produces a perception of alternatives to what is. A belief that the reality does not have to be what it is at any given moment leads to a desire for it to be what it is not. Constant rejection of what is and a desire for what is not is the essence of perfectionistic suffering.

8. To want what doesn't exist and not to want what exists, not to want the reality of the "now" that you have, is a formula for existential suicide. If this reality, as it is in its entirety, is not enough for you, if you feel that you deserve more than this entire universe can summon up at any given moment, then check yourself out in the mirror for a halo around your head.

9. Acceptance of what is isn't passivity. Acceptance of what is means an active engagement in reality. Accept that whatever exists right now is beyond improvement and therefore as perfect as it can be. And, if you think you need to, try to change what is yet to be. As you do so, accept the results of your efforts as the best that you can do. Repeat this cycle of acceptance and change on an as-needed basis.

10. I have a notion of a new perfectionism. The old-paradigm perfectionism was an attempt to perfect the imperfect. The new paradigm: perfecting the perfect. Everything is the best way it can be at a given moment in time--perfect. And yet, it can still be better in the next moment. The present is already perfect. Relax into that idea; your work in this moment is done. Now you can look to the next moment and perfect the future.

Words are the mind's legs. They walk you away from what is. And yet we need them. So, choose their meaning carefully. Your well-being depends on it. Mind is subjective, and so is your experience of reality. Since subjectivity is but a play on objectivity, you are free to choose what you mean by perfection. Choose the meaning you like. For years you've been toying with the idea of attaining the unattainable. For years you have defined perfection as a theoretical best. Naturally, by these standards, you have always fallen short of what theoretically could be. You've put into this game far more than you've gotten out. It's time to toy with the idea that perfection is not only attainable but that it is inevitable, with the idea that you are always doing your best at any given point in time and that is enough. Enjoy!

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