Hiding Behind Perfectionism
I’ve been told I’m a perfectionist, but I’m probably just a coward.
It’s a lot easier to say that I didn’t publish a blog or give a talk or record a podcast because I couldn’t get it to be the way I wanted it to be, rather than admitting that I wanted to avoid the potential criticism that comes with actually doing these things.
I do have a perfectionistic streak, but I think that a desire to avoid criticism factors into me hating everything I produce as well. A list of potential criticisms follows every idea I have.
“What business do you have talking about embracing your fate when I heard you complain about how hot it was just last week?”
“Who are you to say anything about being mindful when you played video games for two hours yesterday?”
“You can work with people on their marriage and parenting skills when you learn to be a decent husband and father yourself.”
“Meditation classes? You only sat for 10 minutes this morning. Fraud.”
This can go on and on, and it does. It leads to the notion that unless something I come up with is bulletproof I shouldn’t attempt it, and this keeps me from doing the things I need to do in the time I need to do them.
I am not sure I would have ever had the nerve to open my own office if I hadn’t been in a situation that necessitated stepping out on my own. My mind offered some pretty valid reasons to be wary about leaving the comfortable nest I was in.
“What if people are only coming to see you because you are free as part of their tuition? It’s a whole different world when people have to pay to see you. I am not sure you are good enough.”
“You don’t have any business sense, what happens when you run your office into the ground?”
“You have a lifetime job right now, why would you give that up? Careers like this don’t come around for people like you very often.”
“You don’t know anything about insurance or marketing or making forms, and you probably aren’t organized enough to maintain your own schedule.”
The thing is, I think that people seeing my business fail would have been worse than it actually failing. I have no problem picking up a shovel tomorrow if this counseling/meditating thing falls through, but I cringe at the thought of people seeing me fail. This is odd because failure is one thing I have a lot of experience with, but I seem to worry about it more now for some reason.
The only way to avoid criticism is to keep quiet and avoid doing anything (until someone calls you on not doing anything with your talents, I suppose). Hiding behind perfectionism works for a long time if we are smart about it. This has been my unstated plan so far, but I am trying to push against this.
Thoughts of failure may always creep in, but they are not valid reasons to quit. I am resisting deleting this entire blog because I feel like it is muddled – are we talking about a fear of criticism, the perfect as the enemy of the good, self-judgment or something else? Is it too choppy? Too wordy? What if this changes the way someone sees me for the worse?
These are all possibilities, but if I aim for bulletproof I’ll wind up with nothing. There are no perfect things, and if there were it would be very difficult for anyone to connect with them anyway.
Are there goals or dreams you are sacrificing because of a fear of criticism?
Are you hiding behind perfectionism?
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I write, podcast and make videos about living in freedom through mindfulness, intentionality, compassion, and equanimity.
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