About two years ago, I was working with an amazing client. She is a high-achiever and holds herself to the highest possible standards. She was house-hunting at the time, and the process was quite painful. It brought up a lot of insecurities; there were some setbacks in the process. But more importantly, her perfectionism came out with the house hunt.
I asked her to reflect on her experience of working on perfectionism with me, and here’s what she replied:
‘It was like a revelation. Or epiphany even. We looked into my issues with houses and imagined my desired house.’
During the session, I requested her to imagine her dream house in her mind’s eye and ask it how it felt?
‘And then it said to me, my house, trembling with fear and sadness, “I think you won’t like me because you are looking for perfection.”
I still remember that moment. We fell silent, almost tearful. It was very touching.
I asked her to reflect on what was underneath that desire for perfection. Here’s what she typed back:
‘Two things: a belief that only perfect is satisfactory. Because perfectly beautiful and accomplished equals marriageable / safe / protected. And second, the deep seated understanding that perfection is unachievable, so you are ALWAYS dissatisfied and disappointed.’
In her words those two key beliefs constituted the framework and mutually reinforced one another, causing her to be miserable and ignore what was right in front of her, while she was caught in a vicious circle of searching for the unattainable. By the end of our session, she had a new thought: ‘Everything is uniquely beautiful in its own right.’
‘Some people say: if I don’t strive for perfection then it means lowering my standards. Which is rubbish. It means noticing perfection everywhere, or to put it differently, noticing that imperfection is immensely rich, varied, exciting and beautiful.’ I couldn’t say it better myself.
Here’s a testimonial she gave me the other day:
‘One of the biggest shifts you helped me to achieve was to debunk perfection. It totally changed my outlook on life and made so many things easier.’
Maya, University lecturer
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