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How to End Your Affair With Perfectionism Without Sliding Off the Edge of the Universe

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Perfectionism seduces you into a life of ho-hum mediocrity, stunting your creative spirit. Perfectionism lulls you into a coma of the gray sameness of everyone else. Perfectionism lures you into the myth of If everything is perfect... then things won't go South... he won't leave... the children won't be a problem at school... I won't lose my job... we won't lose the house...

When you cave into the illusion of perfectionism, you end up flatlining your life into something that's bland, tasteless and missing the extra special sauce. You've fooled yourself into thinking you can control nearly every aspect of your life by convincing yourself that you have the perfect life -- the perfect spouse, the perfect kids, the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect dog, the perfect everything. How ecstatically happy does that make you feel inside?

Guess what? Life is messy. And it doesn't always go the way you planned it. Life, you see, has a hard time staying within your lines. Life loves the doodle. Life embraces the beginner's mind.

"Allow yourself to be a beginner... no one starts out excellent." -Unknown

I'm a recovering perfectionist. I had one of those carefully-crafted lives. I thought I had to have the perfect marriage. I thought I had to have the perfect kids (well... I'm still partial to my kids.) I thought I had to have the perfect job. I thought I had to have the perfect everything. Only my marriage was imploding from the inside out, my kids were teenagers (hardly perfect!) and my company went bust when the tech bubble exploded. My life, in nearly every aspect, threw up all over me.

My first husband left me for another woman, my kids became aliens, I lost my job and five months after my divorce was final, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 40 years old. I was as far away from the perfect life I thought I had to have as I could be without sliding off the edge of the Universe. Wait. I did slide off the edge of the Universe, and while that made all the difference in my life, I don't believe you need to slide off the edge of the Universe in order to end your affair with perfectionism.

Instead of putting all those carefully-crafted pieces back together, I decided to live my mess. I decided to embrace all that was wrong and right and messy and cool and weird and wonderful. I took it all in. When I made peace with the pieces that didn't quite fit, those pieces that I kept trying to shove into spaces where they didn't belong, my life became lighter and freer. The sky became bluer. The grass became greener. I became less stressed and less of a control freak as I embraced the wholesome mess my life truly was (and is). When I chose to live with my mess, I made the conscious choice to have a beginner's mind.

Perfectionism hates the beginner's mind. It demands that you be excellent without even practicing. It stops you from doing what it is you want to do. Perfectionism, in its perfectly-starched white shirt, black pleated skirt and perfectly coiffed hair, stirs up your fears.

  • The fear of being made fun of.
  • The fear of disapproval from others.
  • The fear of criticism.
  • The fear of being rejected.

Look that fear in the face and ask it "so what?" Watch the fear shrink. It has no comeback line. Even if you are made fun of, disapproved of, criticized or rejected by others, at least you are doing something to reclaim the life you were born to live. Never mind the naysayers and the Negative Nellies, because they are trapped in the same love-hate relationship with perfectionism as you once were.

Go on with your fabulous self and start today with a beginner's mind. Watch and see what awesomeness happens!