On recovering from perfectionism.
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about modern spirituality and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. To get more content about how to infuse your life with thoughtfulness, reflection, and meaning, subscribe here. I am also a holistic personal development coach. You can learn more about working with me here.
Happy Sunday, friends. I dropped some big news last week, didn’t I? And the big stuff is good, and important, and I’ll talk a bit more about it soon.
But this weekend I was thinking about the small stuff. I came up to visit MDF (meaning My Dear Friend, and if you missed last week’s newsletter, read here first) and we’ve had a wonderful weekend. But small things went “wrong.” I made a meal of fresh, homemade pasta, that I had hyped to the moon and beyond — and I seriously somehow fucked up the dough and the fettucine ended up gloppy and stuck together. MDF and I biked down through Manhattan on the Hudson River Greenway — and he biked over some glass and got a flat tire. I had planned on writing the Soother before coming to visit him, but never got around to it — so stressed about it all weekend and am banging it out late from a Bronx diner and unsure of what exactly to say.
As a recovering perfectionist, I still beat myself up for standards that exist only in my head. Though I’ll probably never be fully past my perfectionism, one thing I’ve realized about it is how in the past it prevented me from being present for the joy in moments that go “wrong,” and how that perfectionism has created a form of rigidity, not being able to flow with whatever life offers up instead of the precise plan in my head.
If I still adhered to the shame and rigidity of how all of these weekend plans should have gone, this is what I would have missed:
- MDF’s genuine delight in being cooked for, and his insistence on eating three bowls of the pasta
- The joy of brown bagging a tall boy back on the computer train, chatting and laughing as our bikes swayed in the compartment ahead of us
- The feeling of flow that comes from writing a newsletter where you have no plan for what you’re going to say, and you realize it’s going to be okay anyways
I’m not much for sappy Pinterest-type memes, but I did see one that landed with me the other day: Obstacles are just detours in the right direction. When I can be present for the direction that takes me off a charted path, and take delight in what is offered up, then life is just a little bit sweeter.
But will I take my newfound ability to be more present for the small detours as I move into a bigger direction in life? As I prepare to leave my current full-time job and launch my own coaching and writing business, I’m not sure. I’ve never been one for taking risks, and every time I think about going out on my own, I still catch my breath in my throat. What about insurance? What about money? What will my days look like? Will I be able to help people in the ways I want to?
And the only thing I can honestly say is: I don’t know.
But I know that I can — I must — try. And I will work to be there, truly there, for all of it. Wherever it may take me.