Archive for the ‘perfectionism’ Tag

The Meanest Boss I’ve Ever Had   2 comments

My last journal entry (on perfectionism):

I start out with the idea “I could do better” (in this case about counseling).  I think of what possibly went wrong, and how I could “fix” it in the future.  “I could do better” becomes “I must do better,” turning hope and potential into standards and judgments.  The way to fix my sense of failure and self-criticism is to be sure I don’t repeat the mistakes I supposedly made and so escape future shame—forgiveness earned through perfection.  This is a never-ending gerbil wheel.

Even though I might approach the issue as mere problem-solving and try to avoid self-criticism, the judgment hangs around the edges just waiting to pounce and drag me down.  And the longer I dwell on ways to improve, the heavier it weighs on me.  Driven by fear of repeating my failures, I come up with some good corrective plans and wish I had used those in what has already transpired.  And then “I could do better” becomes “I should have done better.”  After all, with just more reflection I figured out a better approach.  Couldn’t I have done this before if I had just been more observant or reflective, more thorough and careful?

Of course, this self-judgment cripples me, gives me less freedom and flexibility, makes me defensive and self-protective, makes me fearful and insecure, and in the end I am less present, open, and vulnerable, more tired and distracted because the good is overwhelmed by my attacks on myself.  My very desire to flourish becomes the knife that severs my flourishing.


Posted July 7, 2020 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Failure Is a Necessary Part of Life   Leave a comment

Excerpt from Mike Mason, Practicing the Presence of People:

We should never be ashamed to return to the drawing board.  In fact all of us should return there every day like children playing on a chalkboard.  The virtue of a chalkboard is that everything drawn on it can be wiped out and begun all over again.  If we were children living in a cottage beside the sea, then every day we would rush out to the beach to play at drawing and building in the sand, and then every night the tide would wash our sandbox clean.  As adults, we might perhaps consider this a pointless activity.  But why cling so tightly to our grown-up accomplishments?  What better way to live than with a clean slate every morning?

Consider the example of Brother Lawrence, who “asked to remain a novice always, not believing anyone would want to profess him, and unable to believe that his two years of novitiate had passed.”  Even the truth, after all, is not something to be held on to doggedly.  If something is really true, then let’s learn it anew every day.  And if there’s anything we’ve acquired that is not true, that does not stand the test of heartfelt love, then let’s wipe it away with the blood of Jesus!

This openhanded, reachable attitude is what is implied in the word practice.  Inherent in this word is the freedom to experiment, to try and try again with limitless humility to fail.  Practice makes perfect, but the practice itself is not perfect.  Practice is a patient, relaxed process of finding out what works and what doesn’t.  Practice leaves plenty of room for making mistakes; indeed mistakes are taken for granted.  In practice it goes without saying that any success is only the fruit of many failures.  Hence the failure is as important as the success, for the one could not happen without the other.

Many people avoid practice because of the fear of failure.  Perfectionists have the mistaken idea that something is not worth doing if they cannot look good by getting it right the first time.  For the perfectionist, any misstep is an unpleasant and embarrassing surprise.  But for a humble person, the surprise is getting it right.  Humility expects trial and error and so rejoices all the more at success.  Humility is always being surprised by grace.

Either life is practice, or it is performance.  It cannot be both.  Do you love surprise, or do you prefer to stay in control?  Are you a professional at life or an amateur?  Do you live spontaneously and experimentally for the sheer love of it  Or are you an expert who takes pride in being right about everything?  Would you rather be right than happy?

None of us can be perfect.  But everyone can be free.  Which will you choose?

Posted August 14, 2015 by janathangrace in Reading

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