Going Beyond Perfectionism

“In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism.” –Hannah Arendt

There are no two ways about it: I got stopped.

Stuck. Stumped. Stymied.

Completely and totally blocked.

I let the ways I thought this blog “should” look prevent me from actually doing the work. I got caught up in the idea that I was supposed to sound like an “expert” on depression, as though, in order to write about depression, I had to have some extra letters after my name, such as “Ph.D.” (If suffering from clinical depression my entire life doesn’t make me an expert, then I don’t know what would!)

I thought every blog post “should” proceed in a logical fashion from the one before it, smoothly segueing into the next post, with appropriate links to previous posts and additional links to useful resources. And I thought that I had to publish a certain number of posts a week, with certain types of articles on certain days of the week.

I felt sure that every post “should” be so well crafted that it was worthy of being submitted to The New Yorker, or, at the very least, the local AboutTown. This felt especially true of the ambitious series of articles I began on depression and grief; the blog post prior to this one is the first in the series (“The Comfort of Denial”). It felt as though Elisabeth Kübler-Ross herself had to approve of each article before I posted it, even though she died some years ago!

Most of all, in my heart of hearts, I wanted some kind of “guarantee” that my work was good enough, the writing compelling enough, the information not only helpful but also inspiring and healing for people with depression. I wanted to know for sure that I was making a difference for my readers (and, let’s face it, I wanted kudos and pats on the back). Not having this guarantee made me drag my feet on the writing. I also became reluctant to check the comments that were coming in for fear that I would see some negative feedback.

In short, this blog had to be perfect.

While perfectionism and the procrastination it leads to aren’t unique to depressives, you can see how the “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” to which we are prone can cause us to create constructs that limit us. Perfectionism isn’t about not being good enough; it’s about the fear that others will judge us as not good enough and reject us for it, even as we judge (and reject) ourselves far more harshly than anyone else ever could. It’s about building roadblocks out of “shoulds” to keep ourselves safe from taking risks. Staying small and safe might not be much fun or very rewarding, but at least it’s comfortable and—most importantly—controllable.

It also costs us. Perfectionism costs us the satisfaction we might gain from sharing our gifts. It prevents us from participating in life. It cuts us off from other people, making rewarding relationships next to impossible. It can even cost us money, as we turn away from opportunities to exchange our talents for cash. And, inevitably, it worsens our symptoms of depression, making daily life that much harder.

I’m no longer willing to not participate in life, even though I have depression. It’s my life, my stage, and my audience, and by golly, I refuse to put Perfectionism on the billing! In a future blog posting, I’ll share with you some simple strategies to send perfectionism packing when it threatens to derail your efforts to get your life back on track or to simply get your work done.

(c) 2010 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.

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4 Comments

Filed under Making Tracks

4 responses to “Going Beyond Perfectionism

  1. lindamead

    Glad you’re back, Patricia! I’ve missed you. I totally agree with you. Trying to be perfect, so people will think well of me (I think) is a no-win game. I learn and relearn this lesson all the time. What makes the difference for me is how sane and peaceful I feel when I am (just) good enough vs how stressed I feel when I try to be perfect. Allowing myself to be good enough is good enough!

  2. I can so relate to this, particularly when it comes to blogging. So many times I have started and soon closed a blog because it wasn’t “good enough”. I’m not giving up with my new blog, that I just started.

    Although, after reading you about pages, now I feel that I have to edit my about page 🙂

    Great blog, glad I stumbled it and you’re such a great writer and positive.

    • Hi, ModTrag, Welcome to CPR for Depressives! Glad you’re here. I looked at your blog and the About page; I encourage you to “act as if” and go ahead with your blog, even if you’re not feeling the confidence or are fearful of others’ responses. For so many years, I was afraid of putting myself out there. I felt sure that my writing wasn’t good enough; not only that, but that no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I finally realized that the only person I was shortchanging was myself. You are worth believing in and investing in–so go for it! Blessings to you. Be sure to subscribe and to pass this blog along to other depressives/BPDs who need a lift and some constructive ways to take care of themselves.

  3. Thank’s so much for the encouraging and kind words, it is helping me a lot – not only in blogging, but in dealing with my “issues”, as I was reading some of your posts.
    Wish you all the best & for sure will come back for more.

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