Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? Many of us throw around the term to describe ourselves when we are driven to succeed or have high standards. But when we really unpack perfectionism, it is a mental habit that can make life feel like an endless report card on whether or not we, or others, are measuring up.
Perfectionists set unrealistically high expectations. They demand near flawlessness from themselves and others, are overly critical of mistakes and quick to find fault. While having high standards for your life can be healthy, perfectionism is driven by a judgemental and critical pattern of thinking that sends us on a fast track to unhappiness and disconnection.
Hit play on my latest podcast, or keep reading below, to find out more about perfectionism, why it is the killer of unconditional love, and how we can shift to practising unconditional acceptance, a more helpful and skilful state of mind.
Life through the lens of perfectionism
Perfectionism is the destroyer of love. Now, you might think that’s a pretty strong statement! But let’s explore this idea a little more.
When we are in pursuit of perfection – whatever our idea of that is – what we are usually doing is we’re looking at something or someone through the lens of a comparing mind, a critical mind or a judgemental mind. We are focusing on what’s wrong, what’s lacking, what’s not ok with them yet.
In other words, we do not accept them as they are.
So, we might look at someone, for instance, but then we have this idea of how we think they should be. So instead of just accepting them as they are, we compare them to our idea of how they should be better, how they should do things differently, how they have these things about them we don’t like, how they have these imperfections.
And in that moment that we do that, there’s a little bit of inner tension created between you. A little closing down or walling off. Often even a little hostility comes in. We don’t accept and love them just as they are. We want to change or fix them, or get them to do what we want.
We may do this with our loved ones, our co-workers and even strangers we barely know.
We do this kind of thing to ourselves too, right? We have these kinds of mental measuring sticks where we compare ourselves and judge where we are on the scale. We measure where we are on the scale of looks, money, success and we try to edge our way closer. And if we are not at the top end of the stick, we conclude mentally that we are not worthy, not ok as we are. We slip into feelings of unworthiness and sadness. Or we push our minds and bodies to their limits trying to measure up and ‘make it’.
Adopting unconditional acceptance
When we are overlaying the perfectionistic comparing and critical mind onto our view of ourselves, each other, and life, we will always see things as less than, not good enough or in need of fixing or changing. No matter what we or others ever do, get, have or achieve we will again overlay the same mindset, therefore never allowing unconditional acceptance in the door.
And then we’ll never see the perfection that is actually always there, right in front of our eyes.
What do I mean by ‘the perfection right in front of our eyes’? Well, there is another way of looking at things. A mindset that is free of comparison or judgement that might see everything as already ok just as it is. Even with all the cracks, flaws and apparent imperfections. In that case we would practice accepting and appreciating things as they are. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong and needs changing, we would focus on letting things be as they are, and loving them just as they are. This is a mindset of unconditional acceptance.
What follows unconditional acceptance of course, is love.
In fact, the Dalai Lama when asked once what is love, simply replied “‘What is love? Love is the absence of judgement.” And this rings true to me. When someone looks at us with total acceptance, and without judgement we feel connected, seen and safe. When we practice unconditional acceptance with ourselves we feel worthy, whole and confident.
So, the truth is we’re not really seeing things clearly when looking through the eyes of perfectionism. We’re not seeing the other person or ourselves as we truly are in that moment. And we will always feel tension, loss of connection and loss of love.
Your mental strength practice this week
So, for just one week I invite you to try out being an ‘imperfectionist’ instead. As best you can, let go of the idea of perfectionism and deliberately switch your mental focus to unconditional acceptance and appreciation instead.
See if you can soften the mental habits of comparison and judgement. Every time you find yourself judging, criticising or fault-finding in your mind, switch your focus to loving and accepting people (yourself included) just the way they/you are.
If we can let go of the idea of perfection, then we can make more space in our lives for authentic, wholehearted connection and love.
So that’s this week’s mental strength practice. Giving yourself and others what we all want most in this life – unconditional acceptance and love.
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