Perfection is an illusion


The other day a client said to me “Well, it’s because I’m a perfectionist.” And I gave a chuckle and responded with “Well, I’m a recovering perfectionist.” Which then made me think this would make a great blog post.

The dictionary defines perfectionism as refusing to accept any standard short of perfection.

I don’t know what my parents did to me (in a good way), but I used to strive for perfection almost to an obsessive compulsive-degree. And recently, I found it drove me nuts, because perfection is an illusion. Something may be perfect for a moment in time, but that’s all: just a moment. For example, I strive for inbox zero (I get a weird high from it) but how long does that really last? Maybe but a minute before the next email comes in? But for that one moment, I smile at the perfection I’ve achieved and allow it to all be undone.

There are so many great quotes out there on perfection, but ultimately we know that being perfect is not only not helpful – it’s not healthy. Flaws are beautiful; there is a certain kind of beauty to mild chaos – it’s real. Which is why I say I’m a recovering perfectionist. I still struggle with it from time to time, but I try to figure out why I think I need things to be perfect. Is it because I’m afraid of what others will think? Is it really because I need something to be a specific way? It depends.

Perfection can also be a crutch. If we strive for perfection we can always put something off. I’ve seen this happen with clients. They think it need to look a certain way but we can never get there (sometimes I wonder how much of this is on purpose). Some use perfection as a way to self-sabotage. Or sometimes what some clients have in their head is not really what they end up wanting when we finally achieve it.

A lot of my professional organizing colleagues use the term “done is better than perfect” and it took me a while to really grasp and agree with that concept. 
When I applied it to my writing/editing, I finally had that light bulb moment. I could write, and write, and then edit, and edit, but after publishing the blog or article, I could still find things I could’ve said differently; should’ve used different punctuation; oh there’s another typo; etc. I was – as we organizers love to point out – ‘should-ing’ all over myself. 

Believe me, when I take a after photo during an organizing session, I want it to be as perfect as possible. After all that’s great marketing, right? But, like I tell my clients all the time, we don’t live in a magazine photo shoot. Things are going to be out of the ordinary because this is real life. I can still highlight the amazing transformation of before to after, even with some of the little imperfections (like the time I took a photo of my beautiful organized vanity and saw that one of the NARS compacts was upside-down; I actually had someone fix it in Photoshop for me!).

So this blog is to all you perfectionist, who may be driving yourself crazy with your need to have everything just right. Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I still do it from time to time. It’s a work in progress, but being a recovering perfectionist allows for more peace and ability to go with the flow. And that’s what I’ve been striving for more personally (and professionally) – to be in flow. It’s this magical place where everything just works out, well, perfectly*. 

*trying to be cheeky here; by perfectly I mean just as it should be, for you.

Lauren Mang
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