The Tyranny of Perfection

flower-765921_1280It’s been a week since we moved into our new house and every day my husband scours our home – inside and outside – in search of any little snag and mishap that the builders need to fix.

Some things are major, such as the fact that the builders forgot (!) to install a radiator in the kitchen.

Others, however, are minute (in my opinion) and would have gone unnoticed to my untrained eye unless my beloved insisted on angrily pointing them out to me, whilst cursing the builders.

‘Nothing is ever perfect,’ I respond as calmly as I possibly can without appearing as if I am dismissing my husband’s concerns.

A couple of years ago roles would have been reversed. Then I was the perfectionist and my husband the one who didn’t see the point of making a fuss over trivial matters.

In fact, perfectionism has ruled most of my life. As a child, I was forever striving for the perfect exam results, and anything less than a perfect score felt like failure. The maxim I’d created for myself was: ‘since I’ll never be pretty, I have to be brilliant’.

As a grown-up, however, perfectionism became my worst enemy. Whenever I sat down to write something, for example, I had to have the perfect notebook, the perfect pen or the perfect keyboard in order to produce anything. Instead of writing, however, I ended up wasting precious time searching for the perfect, and so elusive, writing tools.

When my husband and I moved into our first shared home nine years ago, I was adamant that the walls had to be expertly painted and that every strip of wallpaper be smooth and perfectly aligned. Minor imperfections became a constant source of irritation and stress.

What changed? I am not quite sure, but over time I came to see just how much my perfectionism was working against me, imprisoning me in its tyranny. Perhaps it had something to do with me becoming actively engaged in issues around disfigurement as a volunteer for Changing Faces.

Making peace with my own face and learning more about other people’s struggles with their facial differences definitely helped ease my perfectionist obsession.

As I immersed myself deeper into that which I was truly passionate about – face equality and disability rights – I cared less and less about whether the cream-coloured rug in the hallway at home was stained, or about the paint falling off the old, battered doors in our flat.

And what I’ve learned is that life is so much more enjoyable and peaceful when you free yourself of the expectation that things need to be perfect.

3 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Perfection

  1. Julia July 24, 2015 / 4:05 pm

    Great post Jenny! The perfectionist streak is one that so many of us play with; gradually we find our way towards a similar conclusion as yours and what a relief to put this illusion down once and for all – especially in relation to the freedom to write!

    Liked by 1 person

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