Letting Go Of Our Willfulness: Perfectionism


Perfectionism is Paralyzing

Some people feel that if they can’t do something flawlessly, they might as well not do it at all. Everything has to be just so, or else it will reflect badly on them. Other people will notice this trait and judge them harshly. Their internal demand to be perfect becomes so confining that they may be reluctant to do anything at all. This is especially true in their relationships, they are intimidated to speak lest they fail to express themselves precisely and thereby offend someone. In some cases they inflict their perfectionism on others by insisting something be done exactly as they say it should be done. Perfectionism is a tormented way to live.

The Perfectionism Inside Us

Now we ourselves may have a tiny bit of perfectionism because we don’t want to commit any mistakes if we can help it. So we are quite careful about how we go about things, and we can’t help but notice any blemish in whatever we do. It sticks out to us like a sore thumb. We cannot be satisfied with only adequate performance, we much prefer to excel and exceed expectations.

We may even be attracted to others who are perfectionistic. After all, we can admire a job very well done. And we would secretly glow if someone else were to praise the high quality of all our own endeavors. But we never get enough praise or appreciation, and we become depressed as a result. At some point our efforts to be perfect are doomed to fail. We will be miserable until we learn how our perfectionism misleads us.

Truth About Perfectionism

Perfectionism results when our egos attempt to get beyond criticism. It is a way our egos protect themselves, but it cuts us off from our true identity. It leaves us stuck in a superficial and imaginary self that is oblivious to the awareness that contains it. The chronic discontent we feel may lead us to relinquish our need to be perfect and identify instead with the unlimited Source of our being. In this way we will replace the approval of other people with the confidence we acquire from the creative Source inside us.

Richard G. Hartnett, MA, MS, LCADC is a former Jesuit priest who now lives with his wife, Kathy, by a lake in northwestern New Jersey. He has served as the chaplain at Hazelden New York, pastoral counselor at the Chemical Dependency Department of the International Center for the Disabled in NYC, and continuing care counselor at the outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of High Focus Centers in New Jersey. Currently he maintains a private practice in New Jersey. He is the author of The Presence at the Center, Renewing Your Fourth Step, The Three Inner Voices: Uncovering the Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, and Sobriety and Inspiration: Entrusting Ourselves to the Source of Our Healing and Creativity.

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