Far be it from me to imply that I’ve slipped the shackles of perfectionism. I HAVEN’T. I’ve been trying for sixteen years (well, off and on.) Actually, I’ve failed at that too. But if Part 1 about Perfectionism Purgatory rang a bell for you, hopefully this article helps you get free of it.
Here’s a few Tips-and-Tricks that’ve helped me.
- Go No Contact with Narcissists: If you haven’t done it already, I highly recommend No Contact. You may live with the low-grade stress of daily False Guilt, but we’re used to that. It’s better than living with the high-grade stress of daily narcissism.
- Jettison Critical, Perfectionistic People: They might not be narcissists per se, but you know the type! Very rigid. Very legalistic. Very perfectionistic. Very eloquently critical of people who don’t do things exactly their way. You don’t need people like that in your life.
- Get Realistic: Y’know Her Serene Highness? Don’t believe her persona! No one has that much time and energy. But you can appear “perfect” if you chuck money around to pay other people to help you look perfect. Salons, dry cleaners, tailors, manicurists, car detailers, housecleaners, maids, tutors, dog trainers, lawn services…they’re doing everything for her…while you do it all for yourself. But your finances may actually better than Her Highness’! You have money; she has debt.
- Make Your Home Your Castle: That’s right. Make your home a sacrosanct bower of imperfection. Don’t allow anyone in your door that is critical, perfectionistic, superior, condescending or narcissistic. It’s your home, damnit! No one has a right to criticize you in your own home. Let it be your bower where there are no standards, anything goes. And if you enjoy collecting astrolabes and have them mounded everywhere, you have the freedom to do it in your castle. Or treeehouse, if you prefer. I imagine my cottage is high up in a tree where no one can screw with me.
- Get Down to Basics: This is so important, it deserves its own section.
- Lower That Bar: Ditto
Getting Down to Basics
What is a house? What are clothes? What is food? What is music? What is a car? What is employment?
This world turns them into something they’re not. Huge homes become status symbols. Clothes become something to flaunt, to twirl on the red carpet. Food becomes food porn on Instagram or televised cooking competitions all about microgreens and molecular gastronomy. Music also becomes a competition fought out on concert stages with Steinway Hamburg pianos. Employment becomes a social ladder to scale. A car becomes an ego boost, a chick magnet. If you don’t have the biggest, the best, the glitziest, the most expensive…you’re a less-than, imperfect, a failure.
It’s all bullshit!! I learned that from my husband and he learned it when he was homeless by choice, on walkabout, rubbing shoulders with fellow homeless who had lost jobs, families, houses, veterans rejected by the country they fought to defend. Being homeless simmers life down to its absolute basics, giving perfectionism a good, swift kick in the cojones.
A home is for shelter, for protection, for warmth, water and sanitation.
Clothes are for covering our nakedness, protecting us from the elements, keeping us warm.
Food is for giving us nutrition and energy.
A car is for transportation.
Employment is to earn the money so we can pay for our home, our clothes, our food and the car to bring us back and forth to work.
Mankind, in his lunacy, turns everything into a damned competition, obscuring what is truly important in life. Survival. Kindness. Love. If you’re surviving with kindness and love in your heart, then you’re a success!
Lowering that Bar
Lately, I’ve found myself tiring of all those “high bars” I installed. Craving simplicity, even as my inner perfectionist screams vituperations at me for having too much free time for “staring off into space and watching the birdies.”
Instead of mimicking my legalistic friend’s who religiously clean their homes from top to bottom every Spring and every Fall, I just clean a little bit every day as I notice dirt, smudges and cobwebs. (Viva Lysol wipes! No rags, no more!)
Instead of cleaning the kitchen floor with a mop and bucket, I install a Lysol wipe on each foot and skate around the kitchen floor. It’s kinda’ fun!
Instead of scrubbing stuck-on “yuck” like crazy, I spray the pans down and leave ’em to soak overnight. Voila! The yuck jumps off without even trying.
Instead of planting a huge garden, I’ll be installing a standing-up garden made of discarded pallets next Spring. (No more weeding for me!)
Instead of baking every week, I bake once-in-a-while and freeze the stuff.
I jettisoned my art business and the fiddle has become wall art I enjoy looking at, but don’t play anymore.
The lower the bar gets, the more I simplify my life, the better I like it. Oh sure, my internal perfectionist is screaming bloody murder, but I tell it to “stick a sock in it.” It’s no one’s damn business how I do things or how hard I work. Boundaries!
And that’s the point really. Figuring out our standards and jettisoning those perfectionistic standards we developed when we tried to earn the narcissists’ love. That was an exercise in futility. We weren’t living. We were performing. Every thing we did was a performance in pursuit of applause, a standing ovation…that we never got.
There was nothing wrong with us. The narcissists projected their inability to love onto us by demanding more and more perfection, higher and higher achievements. It never was going to work, y’know. Never. It was all a lie. A cruel trap. You’re done with it. Leave Perfectionism Purgatory far behind you and pursue what the Dutch call levenskunst: the art of living. True living. Real living….full of things you enjoy experiencing, learning and doing merely because they bring you joy. Not because you’re trying to earn love and self-esteem. As poet Walt Whitman said,
The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted,
Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.