I Am an Aspiring ‘Good-Enoughist’

perfectionismI am a recovering perfectionist and “an aspiring good-enoughist”*. Not that I ever actually thought I was perfect, but I always felt I ought to be and was painfully aware of all the ways in which I never measured up. In university, for example, there were many instances when I tried to take a zero on an exam or assignment because I felt ill-prepared or that my work was substandard. Thank goodness for amazing profs who counselled me to try anyways (of all outrageous notions), that any mark was better than zero. Yikes! Fortunately, I have come a long way since then.

Experience, and a tenacious spirit, have taught me that life does not have to be perfect to be beautiful. That I do not have to be perfect to be beautiful. To not allow perfect to be the enemy of good. That if I make a mistake or do poorly at something, the sky will not fall, and all will be well, and I will dust myself off and plod forward. That most people won’t actually judge me for being less than perfect (and many will actually sigh in relief that they are not alone) and those who do probably don’t matter much to my day-to-day happiness anyways. I’ve chosen a kinder, more compassionate way to live.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”

Christopher K. Germer

Having said all that, I still, on a fairly regular basis, butt up against that ornery, accusatory, voice of perfectionism. She tells me (can you relate to any of this?):

You want to counsel others on how to live healthier but you still have struggles of your own and your children want to eat junk food!

You do all that work menu planning but your meals are often boring and sometimes you drop the ball completely!

You ‘preach’ joy but there are times you feel sad/anxious/frustrated/afraid.

Why can’t you do all that so-and-so seems to get done with perfect hair and in high-heels?

Ugh. You may have done X and Y but your bathroom is gross and your floor needs a scrub.

You messed up AGAIN! You yelled at your child/blew your grocery budget/procrastinated on that project.

Blah! Blah! Blah! Happily, after years of practice I can usually turn to boldly stare perfectionism in the face and agree, “yup, you are right. I am not perfect and I don’t need to be.” What freedom to acknowledge the truth that I am, indeed, imperfect, and that with all my quirks, my specific personality type, and the fullness of my strengths and weaknesses, I am lovely. Worthy. Gifted even.

Close to two years ago I did a six-month stint of counselling with a psychologist during which  I tearfully admitted my fears around perfectionism  (how can I authentically counsel others as a women’s wellness advocate and holistic nutritionist when I am still learning myself?). Without skipping a beat he replied that he does not personally know of another psychologist (himself included) who does not, himself, go for counselling. This simple statement had a powerful impact on me and my thinking.

We do not need to be perfect to serve the world or to live with joy. To have strong, connected relationships, or to do meaningful work in the world. We can embrace good enough and kick perfectionism to the curb. She always was a mean and self-serving companion, anyways.

Wholeheartedly embracing imperfection,

Krista xo

Thank you for reading at A Life in Progress. Please sign up for my email newsletter to stay in touch and receive a free welcome gift!

*from The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown. One of my absolute favorite books ever!

P.S. If you are interested in this book, and purchase through my side-bar amazon.ca link, I will receive a small commission.

About alifeinprogress@outlook.com

6 comments on “I Am an Aspiring ‘Good-Enoughist’

  1. one of the things I’ve come to terms with this summer, after much kicking and screaming (basically throwing an internal fit) before finally surrendering, is this: I can have ideals that are the highest expression of my values and beliefs, those things I strive for and ways I want to live my life – I can hold those as the “destination” I aim to reach, while knowing full well, I will never reach that destination, because it is an ideal, not a reality. And this dichotomy has caused me a lot of internal angst over the years and personal pain in feeling like I’m a failure.

    Before I came to terms with the ideal/reality tension I had period of despair, “why bother?”

    and of course the answer is that if we have to set our sights somewhere, even if we know we won’t make the mark (because the aim is the ideal, at least for me).

    I feel like this summer I’ve learned how to hold both of these: the ideal (whether that’s for relationships, finances, career, diet, health, homeschooling, etc) and the reality. And the reality will never meet the ideal because I’m human in relationship with other other humans. But like you say, it’s good enough, more than good enough.

  2. I am 56 and spent nearly 25 years serving my country in the U.S. Navy as and Administration Officer. Long arduous hours seven days a week often on deployments. Given more to do with less manpower to get done in the required time…but somehow it DID get done. However, not done perfectly, and my performance marks proved that for some years. I strove for perfection all those year…and had to be tough, because I was a male dominated environment. I worked hard, took on extra duties (because it looked good and I wanted to get faster promotions) and was in top physical shape. I went to school in my off-duty hours obtaining undergrad and graduate degrees…getting mostly As, of course. I applied for a number of programs that would set me above my peers, got plenty of kudos, letters of recognition and praise and awarded with personal medals of accomodation for a job well done. I challenged myself to run marathons and triathlons into my mid 40s. That was ten years ago….and I have been retired from the Navy since then. I moved to a hippie town in CA and started up a sweet pet sitting business. I no longer run nor do I have a regular work out regime. I walk, I hike, I bike along the beach, I will take the occasional yoga class. At this point I really do not care about being seen or challenging myself. I feel guilty saying this though. I wonder if I am giving up. Then I think…no…I did a lot…and it was good…but I don’t need to do that now. I don’t have that “spark” and drive I used to have though. I suppose I can blame it on menopause….not sure…or just whatever it is …is….Okay. That’s it. I am really happy to read your articles…they are very balanced and reader friendly. Thanks for writing and letting me comment.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, Marthann. Congratulations to you on all your hard-earned accomplishments and successes; sounds like you were very driven. And congratulations on finding your way to a slower, calmer life now. It is a different season for you and I hope you are able to truly enjoy the gifts of it:)

  3. Thank you for your post, you have such a kind way of putting difficult things into words.
    It reminds me of a quote from Jeff Foster: stop trying to do it right (or perfect, like you say), start doing it real (for me, that means including the times you mess up, drift off, lose focus or just fall down flat on your face).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *