I’m such a perfectionist! Maybe you can relate? It isn’t a quality I particularly like about myself. In fact, it is one of my most destructive qualities.
For the decades that I struggled with anorexia it was one of the key things that drove the illness. I was on a relentless pursuit to “perfection”. The “perfect” me was always another pound thinner. The thing is, even if I weighed in at seventy pounds the standard for perfection was never achieved because now I had to weigh sixty-nine pounds … and then sixty-eight pounds and on and on. Perfection was never attainable because the bar was always raised and nothing was ever ‘good enough’.
I think the driving force behind my striving to be perfect has always been a need for love and approval; things my parents never gave freely. So I’d work overtime to be perfect in everything I did in a misguided effort to feel worthy of their love. But that need to be perfect once instilled in the psyche is a very difficult thing to overcome even when we come to realize all the reasons why we seek it. Perfectionism is a self-limiting belief that keeps us from joy and inner peace because nothing we do is ever quite good enough.
In my work as a writer and artist I find that little ‘demon of perfectionism’ rearing it’s ugly little head all too often. The worst thing about it is that it’s paralyzing to the creative process. Art and writing is about letting go and letting the creativity simply flow! I have found – especially in the mixed media art that I have been doing recently, that it is all about being playful and having fun. Mixed media art for me at least is about expressing the inner child. The language of the child within is one of playfulness and joy – definitely not perfection! Perfectionism shuts you down almost instantaneously. Should the ‘inner demon of perfection’ deem that you’ve created something less than perfect, suddenly you are a failure. If you aren’t careful self-defeat takes over and giving up altogether isn’t far behind. Unless you can see it for what it is – a self-limiting belief that hasn’t one iota of truth to it! You see the real truth is that what my eye sees as a huge mistake in an art project, you may see as beautiful! My “screw-up” just might be your “Wow”!
My first mixed media project is of an angel. The first time I did this I thought I put on too much glitter, and I didn’t like it. So I tried again. The second time, I added heart cutouts. I didn’t like that either. It felt a little like child’s art project. After my second attempt the self-doubt began creeping in. You know the thought process: I can’t do this who am I fooling! I am not good enough! I just suck at this! Maybe I should just give up?” That’s when that inner voice said quite loudly, “NO! You can DO this! Just relax! Play! Have fun! BELIEVE in yourself! ” So I fought the nasty little demon and forged ahead! This is what came of that last effort. I loved her. But this piece wasn’t finished quite yet. Little did I know that I was being guided, and that a message and a lesson was unfolding especially for me.
I felt guided to include the word, ‘BELIEVE’. At first I thought it meant, believe in angels or have faith. But that didn’t feel quite right either. Suddenly it dawned on me. This angels message of ‘BELIEVE” meant, ‘believe in yourself”! Yes, believe in myself! Believe I can do this! Believe I can be successful! Believe in the talents God gave me. I got it! This message was meant for me! It was time to stop allowing the ‘inner demon of perfectionism’ to rule my life, and believe in me!
We should of course always strive to be the best we can be, but giving something our best effort isn’t what I’m speaking of here. I’m speaking to perfectionism with a dark and sinister side that’s able to create within the psyche so much anxiety of failure that we are afraid to even make an attempt at trying. We have to face the fact that every one of us messes up. We are going to fail at things, and that’s okay! Nobody is perfect and the amazing thing is, we don’t have to be! As long as you are a human being, that’s reality. All any of us really need to succeed in life is belief in ourselves and that we carry within us the power to be or do anything we set out to.
My angel messenger now graces the wall beside my computer where I am still knee-deep in the manuscript for my book: “Love’s Pure Light”. I had intended to gift or sell this piece until I realized how deeply personal this message was. As I go forward, whether in my writing or my artistic endeavors, whenever my ‘inner demon of perfection’ rises up in an attempt to defeat me this angelic messenger will serve as a reminder to believe in my abilities and myself. She will serve as my permission slip to fail because sometimes failure is part of learning, an often-vital part of the creative process, and just perhaps like my angelic messenger, a wise teacher with a message not to be ignored!