Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s perfection is another person’s “I’m not good enough.” Its all subjective and, ultimately, a movable feast. In my work as a therapist I am constantly working with people who appear to have so much, and yet, in their eyes, they are lacking. Their lack of self belief can manifest in so many ways.
A person can be fit, healthy, have a great job and a loving family and yet they feel there is something missing in their life. They look in the mirror and see ugliness, failure and negativity. They can be wracked with anxiety and self-loathing.
Why do we seek Perfection?
Why do so many of us feel the need to be perfect? Is that what life is all about? When you look around at your friends and family would you love them less if they weren’t the best cook, the best mathematician, the most beautiful person physically? Of course not. We love those around us, warts and all. We love their souls, their imperfections. So why is it so difficult to love ourselves without criticism?
For many people anxiety and lack of self belief are born of events that have happened in the past. Sometimes they can be a collection of events that add up to a belief that we are not good enough. Other times one traumatic event can push us off course, creating limiting beliefs and fears. Something might have happened to us when we were young for which our minds were just not equipped. Our perception of those events can leave us feeling crippled, or can set us free.
Perfection in Therapy
When I began working as a therapist I doubted myself every day. Was I good enough? Was I doing the right thing to help my clients? What if the therapy didn’t work for them? I wanted to be the best therapist I could be and I wanted to have all the answers so that I could help everybody. I wanted to be perfect.
Over time I have realised that I will never be the perfect therapist. I will never have all the answers and I will not be able to help every person who walks through my door. The moment I let go of that need to be perfect I became a better therapist. Letting go of the need to be perfect freed me to accept my imperfections and work on learning, growing, doing the best job I could for my clients. I began to believe that giving people the best of myself was what I needed to do and that best would change and grow over time. Coming from a place of honesty, care and service was what mattered. Sterile perfection was not what I wanted any more.
Growth mindset versus fixed mindset
In school these days children are taught about Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset. People with a fixed mindset tend to see perfection as a fixed point, a definite place to aim for. Those with growth mindsets don’t look so much for the destination as savour the journey.
Those people with growth mindsets are willing to take a chance, to push themselves into unknown territory. They might ‘fail’, but even if they do they will have learnt from the experience. Those with fixed mindsets tend to stay where they are, in their safe zone.
There is a saying that I heard some time ago and which I love. Its the phrase – “Nobody ever became a good sailor on calm seas.” Its so simple and yet it sums up life for me. Life is not a calm sea. Some days life is stormy, grey and full of waves that threaten to capsize our boats. The way we face those days defines us and makes us the people we are. It might feel safer and easier to live life on a mill pond, but where ultimately does that take us?
Making imperfection feel like perfection
So….. can you change that deep belief that you are not good enough into a dawning understanding that its ok to not be good enough…. yet? Can you ever really change who you fundamentally are? My answer to that is yes. Yes, you can change because we are all constantly changing. The direction you take is a choice and there are no rules as to where you go, who you become.
I often hear people say “I can’t do that.” And I wonder….why? What stands between you now and the you that you would like to be? Work? A new skill? Courage? Fear of failure?
If you don’t step out from your safe zone you will never know what you might have achieved. You might have dreams of doing or being something and, even if you try your hardest, you might not succeed in reaching that goal. But in having the courage to try, you are already a different person to the person you would have been if you had stayed still, stayed fixed. You will have learnt, grown, changed just by taking those steps. And sometimes….you might even succeed….you might even become the person you want to be. How exciting is that thought?
Not being perfect is exciting because it means that you have space to change, learn and live life with the wind in your hair, the thrill of your heart beating a little faster. Imperfection can become the perfect place to be because it gives you choices.
Do you need a helping hand?
The work I do helps people to dismantle their limiting beliefs. I’m the person who helps you untie the knot that’s keeping your boat tied to the jetty. There are ways of working together that can work long term to change the way your mind understands events of the past. And at the same time we can work to give you tools to help in the Now with the symptoms of anxiety and fear.
I remember, when I was considering whether to take a chance and retrain at the age of 50, a friend told me that she had retrained aged 60 and had never regretted it. As she said, she now had maybe 20 years ahead of her doing something she loved, rather than carrying on with a life that bored her. Doing the same ‘safe’ thing day in, day out and getting nowhere is said, by some, to be the definition of madness. Taking a chance, sailing out into unknown seas, can take you to exciting new places. Maybe you can begin to believe that you are more than good enough, even if you are not perfect.
If you, or someone you know, are affected by this post and would like to talk about making an appointment, you can contact me: