Elizabeth Gilbert says perfection is the haute couture version of fear. It’s fear that’s all wrapped up in a pretty little package, always wanting to do the right thing even if it betrays it’s person’s own beating heart. It’s denial we are in fear.
I”m a recovering perfectionist. Perfection propelled me through bad diets( aren’t they all bad?), unhealthy relationships, anxiety, and worst of all an inability to truly see my full, imperfect self and have a positive relationship with that woman.
In my mid 20’s something came knocking on my door trying to deliver a message that there was a different path for me than the life I was leading. I was a girl who lost her way when she left college to pursue fashion modeling and ended up with an eating disorder and a boyfriend who wasn’t so good to her. Of course, like any sane woman trying to look perfect on the outside I slammed the door on that voice and continued painting the illusion to myself and others that I was happy, fulfilled and on the path of my life’s purpose as I tagged along with my boyfriend to his nightclubs ( really? I would rather have been in the woods with no tent) and lived in his big house. The messenger continued to come around every so often to remind me a different life was out there waiting for me. Panic attacks crept in, depression engulfed me and the boyfriend and his big boat with my name on the back started to feel like the last human on earth I’d want to be seated with at the dinner table. But I was terrified of leaving.
The thing started knocking daily until I heard it’s light shout through the cracks. “If you stay here you’re going to wither and die!”
Die. Wow. I was only 25 and I knew the voice, wherever it came from was right. I was living in the darkness, feeling disempowered and alone. My closet was filled with Armani and Louis Vuitton, a safe full of jewels, a car for a trophy girlfriend, yet just to get through the day I had started using drugs and food to numb me out.
The pain of not listening to the voice had become far greater than the pain I was in on a daily basis. At the time, I did not have this tool, but the legend who is Byron Katie would have taken me through a process that helped me see that the worst that could happen from listening to the voice was still a million times better than the pain of the life I was living. Maybe I actually would have ended up in the woods with no tent, but at least I would have had the piece of mind that I was living the life I knew I was meant for.
The real me was so far lost she was difficult to find, but I did. Friends helped. My now ex-boyfriend made things as emotionally painful as possible and tried to take everything from me, including what was left of my self worth. I moved back to New York City, which felt like home for me at the time.
Grace was with me as I found a sublet that was perfect and affordable. The woman who owned it told me she may be a bit crazy to rent her apartment to a 25 year old fashion model but some sort of shared kinship over heartbreak and trying to find our way in our mid 20’s let her know I was the right person. That small experience made me believe I was on the right path. The signs are always there if we are watching and listening.
My new life centered more around thinking with my heart than my head. It’s a tough skill to learn and it still isn’t easy to obey. Now when I question which one I”m thinking with I always know to reconnect it’s as easy as sitting in silence for a few minutes. The only way to hear our intuition is through a deep relationship with ourself. For me that meant learning how to get very comfortable alone.
What tends to happen to perfectionists is that we’re so concerned with looking like it’s all together on the outside that on the inside we’re pretty paralyzed to do anything at all. It’s the ultimate betrayal of the gifts God put inside of us. I can say “we” because I’ve been here before. We hit one bar and then raise it up. It’s the ultimate recipe for unhappiness and living a life unfulfilled. Our standards always leave us feeling like we aren’t doing, being or performing high enough. It’s boring and nobody wants to be friends with perfectionists because they are afraid they won’t possibly measure up either.
I have a friend that I love to death for her perfectly imperfect self. One of the reasons I love her so much is that she makes it easy to say “me too” when speaking about ways in which she’s flawed. One of the reasons I started this blog is because I hope to create the same thing for others. If you know what I mean or have felt what I have felt, I would love to hear from you. Have you ever been a perfectionist? What steps did you take to find happiness?