You should know that this post has been sitting in my drafts for a good 2 months now. Mostly written, but not exactly how I wanted it. I realize how ironic this is. To write a post on “overcoming perfectionism” only to leave it unposted for months because it wasn’t “just right.”
In fact, this is one the biggest failures of perfectionism. Holding back on something good because you’re waiting for perfect. Have you ever heard that phrase “perfect is the enemy of good?” The first time I ever heard it was from my sister-in-law (thanks, Serena!) It made me stop in my tracks and really think about it. When she said it, I was just thinking about it in relation to a small project or goal I had. When I used to sew for 4-H, it had to be perfect. I would rip a seam out 10 times if I had to in order to make it just right. I used to spend hours agonizing over schoolwork and grades always shooting for “perfect.”
I’ve realized if taken too far, perfectionism can lead to a dangerous place called discontentment. Richard Rohr sums it up well in stating that perfectionists feel, “There’s always something or other that could be improved.” There is nothing wrong with aiming for things to be done right. However, I’ve found that as I am overcoming perfectionism, I’m happier with my end results no matter the goal or project.
The Enneagram Helped Me Understand My “Need to be Perfect”
A few months ago, my husband had me take the Enneagram Personality test and then had me read a chapter out of Richard Rohr’s book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. It was SO eye-opening. My Enneagram number is One, otherwise known as “The Reformer”. One of the main traits of Ones is, you guessed it, perfectionism. I discovered through reading and reflecting on my number that my perfectionism has led me to not only always aspire for better, but find faults in the present.
As I continued reading about my number, I began thinking, “Ugh, I don’t like my personality.” Ironically, the book then said something along the lines of, “If you are reading this thinking you don’t like your personality, it probably means you have found the right one.”
This is when I realized…How often do I miss out on the good because I’m waiting for the perfect? I’ve done this more times than I can count. Don’t get me wrong, I generally have a happy attitude day-to-day, but I’ve struggled with finding satisfaction in the present. I often think to myself, there is always more you could do. Even when I’m happy or pleased with something, there might be this nagging thought, “I really like ___, I just wish it…”
Similarly, there was always something that could make my life better (more free time, more travel, a bigger savings account, etc). Whatever I found myself longing for in one season would lead me into my next season. I’ve learned it’s so important to be intentional in my decisions and consider all things before I let my desires for perfection lead my life. I don’t want to look back and realize I missed out on enjoying some of the good in a previous season of life.
Learning my Enneagram has helped me become more self-aware and able to process what is happening in my own mind. Over the last few years several books and habits have helped me enjoy life in the present and overcome my struggles with perfectionism. So, for my fellow perfectionists out there, we don’t have to do always wish things were perfect. Fellow Ones, we can accept the imperfections in our world. I’ve found when I’m at peace with this I feel more in harmony overall. Peace with this is a choice I have to continually make, day after day. And now that I’m more aware of it, I have found more overall satisfaction in my present even when it isn’t perfect.
By learning more about my “Reformer” personality, I’ve been able to understand my struggles and failures more easily. It’s helped me to appreciate the person that God made me to be and aspire to build on my strengths. I’ve become more familiar with my strengths and I recognize more quickly and easily when I’m falling into a trap of wishing for perfection.
I really encourage you to find out your Enneagram type. You may find that you come to understand yourself and why you do the things you do and feel the way that you do even better!
Enneagram Type One: The Need to be Perfect
Facts about Ones:
- Ones have a tendency to judge themselves harshly and need to remember to allow grace for ourselves to make mistakes and not be perfect. Because not one of us is perfect.
- According to Rohr, ones make good teachers and pastors. I’m not either, but as a dietitian, my job involves a lot of teaching and coaching. I do find it satisfying to teach others.
- Decisions are very hard for ones because we are always looking for the “right choice.” I wish this wasn’t so true for me!
- An interesting fact is that if you are a One, you likely have a parent that is a One. This is true for me as my mom is also a One.
- Ones often enjoy nature. This may be because nature is one of the few things that is perfect as it is. I feel my best when I’m outside. Outdoor activities are the easiest way for me to enjoy myself and get out of my own head.
Have Learned Am Learning in Overcoming Perfectionism:
- Recognizing that it’s a work in progress. This has been the first step for me. I’m not perfect, life is not perfect (or fair) and that’s okay. It’s beautiful anyway.
- I have yet to regret a day spent in nature. Okay, so I haven’t done this much since we moved to Indiana, but we will definitely do this more now that it’s nice outside again. We have worked over the last few years to adjust our life to include more outdoor adventures. I’ve learned that experiences such as travel, hiking, and other outdoor adventures are very important to me. Plus, there is nothing like a good hike to give you some perspective.
- Say “Yes” to uncertainty. Last year, I agreed to give up my job and leave for the unknown to go with my husband on a travel work contract. Obviously, there was a lot of excitement in this opportunity: travel, adventure, and time to soul search. I could write a whole post on lessons I learned from taking this opportunity. However, I’m so thankful I decided to take a chance into uncertainty. Otherwise I would’ve missed the beauty of a (maybe) once in a lifetime summer in Montana.
- “You do you.” This phrase may be overused and somewhat milllenial, but it’s something my husband and I often say to each other. It doesn’t matter what anyone expects, doesn’t matter what our mind tells us would be “perfect” in the end, we have to be true to ourselves and core beliefs.
- You will fail and it will be okay. Failure isn’t the end of the world. We will all make mistakes, say things we wish we didn’t (or wish we would have said something when we didn’t – any other introverts relate?) But, in the end it’s okay. Instead of focusing on your failure, decide what you will do different next time and move on.
- Choose grace for yourself and others. I’ve learned that we may have the tendency to hold ourselves and others to unreasonable expectations. Being aware of this helps me to choose grace not only with others, but also myself.
Overcoming Perfectionism is a Work in Progress
I certainly don’t have it down. However, I’ve learned that when I’m in a better balance with myself and my surroundings, positive aspects of my personality are more likely to take root. Becoming aware of your personality, no matter your struggles, can help you to choose healthier thoughts and actions for your life.
This post contains affiliate links. Muscle and Manna does receive a small commission when you purchase a product through an affiliate link. However, this has no effect on the cost of the product for you, the consumer. Your support is appreciated and help keep this blog running!