Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Perfect of Them All

Brene Brown suggests that ‘perfectionism’ is not the same thing as striving to be your best.

‘Perfectionism’ is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It is a shield. It is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it is the thing that is really preventing us from flight.

A few years ago, I believed I was a perfectionist. I needed to appear perfect as I believed that I mattered only when I achieved great things. For me it was a positive trait rather than a flaw. Though I worked harder to achieve my personal best, I was never satisfied with the result. I kept telling myself I was not good enough. Insecurity gripped me as I feared disapproval from others.

What makes us aim to be perfect?

It is not clear what causes someone to become a perfectionist. Studies have found that high levels of perfectionism relate to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harming and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is a behaviour that we learn from our own inadequacy or when we copy someone close to us.

Our idea of perfectionism is based on our past actions. It is a combination of what we learned, imagined, and experienced in the past. It can be exhausting when we are trying to avoid repeat failures, but hopeful when we learn from our success. Depending on the outcome, our persona changes. We can become hypersensitive and defensive.

“When perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking” – Brene Brown

It took me years before I let go of the pressure. I no longer feel guilty when I leave my belongings scattered around the bedroom or dump piles of books on the table. I do not feel embarrassed when my family tells me I am a hoarder. Nor do I feel ashamed to say that I am not good at something which I am not particularly keen on.

And yet, when I am making art, I get frustrated and anxious when it does not turn out as I envisioned in my head. Even though others see a brilliant creation, I am critical of my own work. With advertising and social media, I am constantly reminded of all the things that I fall short. Self-doubt creeps in and I take a nose-dive into the pit of self-pity; I am not good enough.

“Have no fear of perfection- you’ll never reach it” – Salvador Dali

Perfection is not a quest to become the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough, that we should try harder. Perfectionism is unachievable. It is a function of the mind that can instigate defeat or success. It all depends on how we use it. Our goal is to reframe our mindset, shift our focus on living only in the present.

Therefore, we should not strive for perfection and we should not concern ourselves with what others think. The desire to achieve perfection can be a detriment to our health. It can cause us to lose our self-confidence and the ability to perform. Everyone has their own values and standards. Let us not second guess ourselves by trying to emulate others. We might end up becoming our worst enemy.

I am okay with not being perfect, because that is perfect to me.

How Can I Stop Being Gullible?

According to Wikipedia, “Gullibility” is a failure of social intelligence in which a person is easily tricked or manipulated into an ill-advised course of action. It is closely related to credulity, which is the tendency to believe unlikely propositions that are unsupported by evidence.

Most of us would like to believe that we cannot be easily influenced by advertising or the media. We feel we are strong enough not to fall prey to marketing tactics, yet we are unaware that we have already been influenced. How many times have we, on impulse, picked up a small item by the checkout counter? Though it was not on our original list, we find ourselves unable to resist the temptation.

“Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.” – Thomas Jefferson

This morning I came across an article in The Sun – A woman accidentally washed her sink with hand sanitiser and the game-changing mistake has left her taps gleaming. My interest was piqued as I have a constant battle with hard water and limescale. Seeing a picture of a shiny tap, triggered a little voice in my head daring me, “Go on, try it!”.

If You Say “Gullible” slowly, it sounds like “Oranges”

Gullible as always, I marched into the kitchen, ready to tackle those limescale deposits. I was eager to see my reflection in the gleaming surface. I knew it was not going to be a piece of cake and I needed strong support. I picked my trusted allies Purell, DR. PALM, Carex and Cuticura, who have been with me since Covid-19 brought me to my knees. Today I asked them to do me proud once more as I believed they would not fail me.

It is the size of one’s will which determines success

A splash of Purell here, another of Carex there, I made sure most of the surface was covered. It was time for my little soldiers to fight my battle. Who would be the toughest? The article did not mention a time limit, but I knew it would take a while. I decided to make myself comfortable and waited for the anticipated gleam.

Five minutes passed. No change. Ten minutes. Still the same. Feelings of doubt began to crawl into my mind like a film of slime clinging to the pipes. Have I left the gel long enough to do its job? Did I use the wrong brand? That little voice hammered away, causing me to lose patience.

“If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

I decided to take matters into my own hands. Using a sponge, I wiped. It was not enough – the white deposit was still in plain view. I emptied four bottles of gel and using a steel wool pad, I scrubbed assiduously. At last I could see a slight shine coming through. Elbow grease was winning against tenacious limescale, but oh boy, what a workout!

What I learned

My sink was more matte than shiny. The steel wool left scratches which I had to polish using toothpaste. I broke a nail in the process but gained lovely scented dried hands. Do I feel tricked? I trusted and acted on impulse, burying my critical thinking. Being in a happy mood made me more receptive and less sceptical. I have learned a good lesson – not to take everything at face value. Not everything we hear from others is useful or even true. I will stick to my normal cleaning product, a well-tested family recipe.