Simplifying is not about achieving perfection

I may have been born a perfectionist. And if I wasn’t born that way, challenging circumstances growing up—along with certain cultural messages aimed at women—helped develop that trait in me. By the time I was in high school I was telling myself that if I worked to become better looking and did everything right I could protect myself from criticism and rejection. Hah!

Becoming a parent has helped me loosen up, but I’m aware that I still have tendencies, and that’s why I occasionally acknowledge a niggling question: how much of my effort to simplify is about me continuing to strive for the outward appearance of perfection? For a living space that always looks clean and well-ordered? For the appearance of not being rushed or stressed?

Intentions are important, because I’m pretty sure I could organize the heck out of our stuff and eliminate clutter and still not get to living better. That’s why I need to keep checking in on my stated goals—be more generous, invest in important relationships, use my creativity, reduce my environmental footprint—and not get stuck at reducing stuff in order to make things look better.

On the theme of abandoning perfectionism in order to live better, I recommend listening to both of the talks below by Brené Brown. After years of researching shame, perfectionism, fear and vulnerability, Brown is now writing and talking about how to live a “whole-hearted” life by embracing vulnerability. She notes in the shorter talk that Americans today are more indebted, addicted, obese, and medicated than ever before, in part, she thinks, because we are trying to numb feelings of vulnerability. If you haven’t heard Brown speak before, she’s smart, funny and engaging.

TEDx Houston
October 6, 2010

On Being
December 5, 2013

4 thoughts on “Simplifying is not about achieving perfection

  1. This post resonates strongly with me. I still cannot quell the perfectionist in me. I try and try but… I will listen to Brown’s talk and hope something ‘sticks’. Thank you.

  2. our “quest” is to find some balance among eating a primal/paleo diet, living frugally, and approaching zero waste. i constantly fight the urge toward perfectionism — we could be a “perfect” paleo family, but not without generating more waste than a “perfect” zero waste family would. i would have guessed it would be inspiring to always strive to be better…but in reality i am more often frustrated that we are not “perfect”…in any regard. thanks for being a voice of reason!

    • Hi Carole!
      For me, striving for perfection nets more negative self-talk — not better results. I’m trying to accept that doing my best most of the time is enough. Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

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