As a “recovering perfectionist,” I completely understand the bittersweet relationship between passion and perfection. If you’re passionate about anything, chances are you’ve struggled (and maybe continue to struggle) with perfectionist tendencies. The wonderful truth is that this world is the perfect place to focus on what makes us come alive.
“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.” – Edwin Bliss
I just wanted to ruin the ending for you: It’s all going to be okay.
This is a rant (albeit a positive one) about my own experience with passion and perfection. May it serve you.
Perfection Is Tethered to Perception
As human beings, none of us are perfect. Perfection doesn’t really exist. How could it? We all have differing views, opinions, histories, stories, struggles, and personalities. One person’s idea of perfection cannot be applied to everyone’s life.Perfection is merely a fragmented view of the world; it never speaks the whole truth. Click To Tweet
Perfection only has the meaning that we give it; it does not have meaning in and of itself. If we can practice shifting our perspective, we can learn to re-evaluate how amazing life really is, just as it is. Things don’t have to be “perfect” in our eyes to be wonderful; in fact, they mustn’t be.
The beautiful thing about being alive on Earth is that we can perceive our aliveness at all—that’s a gift, though it can feel like a curse sometimes. We’re constantly being taught that perfection is malleable, bendable to our willingness to perceive differently.
Every time we accept the way things are (even if we want to change things, and we still can change things once we’ve accepted them) we’re invited to adjust our “perspectacles.” Softening our need to live in a perfect world (strangely) tends to fuel new passions…We're better able to be passionate when we're not spending so much energy on being perfect. Click To Tweet
This World Offers Contrast, Not Perfection
Humans make mistakes. Mistakes (which I fondly refer to as lessons) offer us the opportunity to forgive. Forgiveness is a divine quality that humans can embrace in order to soothe an imperfect past and live in a happier state today.To err is human; to forgive, divine. – Alexander Pope Click To Tweet
When you realize that you’re a human and thus are not required to be perfect, your identity doesn’t need to be based on anything external anymore (i.e. circumstance, achievements, outcomes, the expectations of others). You can instead choose to base your success on the quality of your internal landscape.
When we fill our own need and feel nourished from within, rather than rely on a volatile world and things and people we can’t control to satisfy our need, we can truly be fulfilled and walk through life in joy.
Life on Earth isn’t supposed to be perfect; it’s supposed to offer us contrast by which we can choose what we like and want, by learning what we don’t like and don’t want.
For instance, when life doesn’t seem fair, we’re encouraged to practice trusting the process of life. When you feel like you’ve messed up, there’s a glorious chance to let something go that doesn’t help you move forward. Failure and loss doesn’t feel good, but there’s a teaching we can take with us—not as a burden, but as enlightenment.It is always appropriate to practice changing your mind about how you think things should be. Click To Tweet
Accept what is, imperfections and all, and embrace this life as if it’s exactly what your soul needs to experience. If anything, and if only to satisfy our curiosity, I think it’s an adventure worth trying out.
Questions to Ask, and to Answer
Rather than crumbling under the pressure of perfection, ask yourself these things to stay on track with what really matters:
- Did I live today as my true self, expressing who I really am?
- Did I speak up today?
- Did I do what my heart told me to do rather than staying in my head?
- Was I allowed to be in stillness?
- Did I detach from all external pressures once I realized they were holding me?
- Did I say “yes” to what brings me closer to peaceful inner terrain?
- Did I say “no” to things, events, obligations, and temptations that I feel would lead me away from joy?
We can have excellent standards. Setting goals and dreaming big keeps us feeling alive and connected with our passion, inner fire, creativity, and inspiration. Passion is helpful for fulfilling our purpose, which I believe is to honor our truth and be inspired (to be “in spirit”).
It’s the pursuit of perfection that takes us away from feeling purposeful in our desires and happy in our truth.“Perfection is shallow, unreal, and fatally uninteresting.” – Anne Lamott Click To Tweet
If you’re not feeling good inside, none of your outside successes hold any meaningful or lasting weight. Reach for the stars—not from a gnawing hunger that you need more to be happy, but because you’re listening to your inner voice, that little flame in your heart that coaxes you to focus on what excites your spirit.
Our Passions Encourage Us to Enjoy the Journey
Should we “go with the flow” or “take the bull by the horns?” I believe life is a delicate dance of letting go of what we cannot control and holding firmly to our faith in what’s yet to come.
We may not have it all together, and we certainly cannot control everything around us. What we can do is our best to cultivate a positive internal landscape, one that praises enthusiasm for the journey.Passions encourage us to enjoy the journey; perfectionism places joy always just out of reach. Click To Tweet
If there were no contrast in the world, there would be a limited amount of options to choose from, and a finite number of preferences to pick up. Embrace the nature of where you live, because it’s fertile ground for expansion, creation, and passion.
- What’s one meaningful lesson you’ve learned about passion and perfection from your own journey?
- What’s one helpful practice that keeps you in tune with what you love, and keeps the pressure of perfection at bay?
Please share your thoughts on passion and perfection, how you handle any fear of imperfection, lessons learned in cultivating a positive inner terrain, and any helpful stories with me in the comments.
Share this post with someone who might appreciate a fresh perspective on passion and perfection.
Do and be whatever it is that makes you feel alive, and enthusiastic about the journey.