The Problem with Perfectionism

I went to make myself a waffle this morning and got annoyed. There were crumbs in the butter. I work hard not to have crumbs in my butter or cream cheese, but we had guests this weekend, and let's be honest: Crumbs in butter are a relatively common occurrence, one that is difficult, even almost impossible to avoid.

But these crumbs made me consider the nature of perfectionism. Because I am a perfectionist, and I'm not proud of it. While on the one hand, being a perfectionist does at least mean I give everything my very best effort and cannot bring myself to knowingly hand in shoddy work, the flip side is that in truth nothing is perfect and I therefore live a life of continual disappointment and dissatisfaction.

As a writer, being a perfectionist is debilitating. It takes me ages to eke out anything because I cannot bear for it to be less than perfect. It's like mining for gemstones that have already been cut and polished—these things do not occur naturally. It's agony. (Though I've found the A–Z Challenge helps me get over that, and so I thank it for introducing me to a new way of writing that may prove far more useful to me in the long run. My A–Z posts are over on PepperWords.)

And then, of course, once you think it's finally finished—and perfect—and it's all printed or published or whatever . . . You find that typo. Or you realize you wish you'd have used a different word here and there. Or you think of an even better scene. This is why I almost never go back and re-read any of my own work. And why I can't stand to watch myself on film. I'm never happy with the results.

Being a perfectionist sets one up for a lifetime of not being happy with, well, just about anything or anyone. So I'm trying to lose that. I'm trying to learn to look at the positive aspects of things instead of searching for flaws. To see beauty, no matter how small. I'm trying to teach myself to forgive mistakes—my own and others'. Life will be so much lighter and more pleasant if I can learn this lesson.

So. Crumbs in the butter? Fine, whatever. I'll admit it's going to take some adjustment, this new perspective on things, but the perfectionist in me is determined to succeed.

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