Perfectionism


I have found myself saying a strange phrase lately, and it goes something like this: often, we “get in our own way.”

Last fall, our Writing Center Director presented us with a chapter called “Perfectionism,” from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, subtitled Some Instructions on Writing and Life. I encourage you to go the chapter and read it, because it made me laugh and cringe simultaneously.

I cringe, because I, like many of you, “get in my own way,” and am guilty of perfectionism.

Anne Lamott points out in her ironic, gentle tone that,

Perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-tone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

Lamott has some funny thoughts on God (more like Mr. Rogers, not so much like Bob Dole!), but the gist is that God is a God of grace, and that God is compassionate with us as we should be with ourselves. It seems women especially need to practice this compassion with ourselves and with one another.

A favorite professor of mine just posted on her blog about the much-needed failures in life and the even deeper truth that we need not be afraid to fail, for “successful women are those who have not let their failures define them.”

Can you imagine if all the powerful women in our lives “got in their own way” so much that they were afraid to fail, hence afraid to live, afraid to dream, afraid to love??

Okay, now I’m waxing poetic, but you get it, right?

Perfectionism is us at our worst; showing ourselves grace, that’s God at God’s best.

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2 thoughts on “Perfectionism

  1. I think we get in our way more often than ‘once and a while’, we might even plot against our own precious selves. Not always on purpose, but we do can will..

  2. My recent meditation practice springs from a recent church liturgical reading (by Leonard Cohen): “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” I often get caught in the snare of perfectionism, become self-deprecating and dismiss anything less, which is all that I can, I have and I am. Consequently I reject the blessing of being certain in God alone. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12).

    “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Here’s to cracks!

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