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.

Thou Shall Not Judge

“Wow, have you seen what that lady is wearing?”

“Oh, mother, please don’t judge!”

“Come on, that dress is too short for her age, admit it!”

“Stop it. It’s not funny!”

That was a thought-provoking conversation between my daughter and I. Was I being judgmental? I believed it was a simple observation. I was neither judging nor criticising and the lady in question never heard those words. So, no harm done, right? That was what I thought until I was put in my place by my daughter. To her, I was judging by appearance and that was unacceptable. It was not a joke and she was right.

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself”- Dr Wayne Dyer

There is a fine line between a joke and criticism. So, when does a funny remark become unacceptable? Judging someone is negative, and ‘judgmental’ is a harsh word which we do not like to be associated with. Yet, when we are told that we are judging, we are quick to deny it. Very often we voice our opinions without thinking of consequences. It is instinctive. We react to how others behave but ignore our own behaviour.

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment”- John 7:24

We have become such perfectionists that we think we have the right to correct other people’s flaws. If we feel we have the right to do so, then we must make sure we know everything about that person. We must learn the facts and not assume. We are neither presiding in a tribunal nor are we God, Himself. We cannot form an opinion based on looks or actions. We might think it is funny, but would we tolerate this behaviour if it is done to us?

“When you have an emotional reaction to what you see, you are judging. That is your signal that you have an issue inside of yourself – with yourself – not with the other person. If you react to evil, look inside yourself for the very thing that so agitates you, and you will find it. If it were not there, you will simply discern act appropriately, and move on.”- Gary Zukav

Sometimes when we feel threatened, our defensive mechanism kicks in and judging others help us boost our confidence. Because when we experience negative feelings and our self-esteem takes a dip, we believe we are less worthy than others. Venting out on someone else might make us feel better but we lose our core values.

“It is easy to judge. It is more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience, and willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods. Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow.”- Doe Zantamata

Before we say something, we must stop and think. Before we judge, we must understand why we are doing it. When we learn not to judge others and accept them the way they are, we learn to accept our own imperfection. By turning that negative behaviour into understanding and compassion, we let go of our fear of rejection and learn to accept our own faults.

“If you start judging people you will not have time to love them”- Mother Teresa

Instead of spending time pointing out other people’s mistakes, take the time to ponder on your own. You cannot control how people think and act, but you can control your own behaviour. By choosing to see the good in others, you will end up seeing the good in yourself.  It is high time to learn to show more kindness and less judgement.