Are You a Perfectionist?

by Melannie Svoboda SND on August 1, 2016

Are you a perfectionist? It’s a good question to ask ourselves on occasion.

What is a perfectionist? In psychology, perfectionists are individuals who possess an excessive drive for flawlessness. They set extremely high performance standards for themselves and are unreasonably critical of themselves when they don’t meet their standards. They also tend to measure their self-worth by productivity and are susceptible to depression when they “don’t produce.”

I wrote a poem about perfectionism in my book, When the Blue Heron Flies. Let me share that poem with you here and then offer a few questions for your personal reflection:

“Perfectionism”

Perfectionism is a cruel taskmaster.

Perfectionism can lead to lots of frustration.

Perfectionism can lead to lots of frustration.

Scant is her reward for your onerous labors.

She bestows no peace, no joy, no closure.

She never says, “Well done! Good job! Take a rest!”

Instead all she ever says is, “More! More! More!”

Even if you meet her demands

in a given area of your life,

she quickly finds fault with all the rest of you

and persists in her relentless nagging.

Why strain yourself for her unwinnable approval?

Patience can help curb perfectionism.

Patience can help curb perfectionism.

Far better to expend yourself on befriending one of these:

Humility, Patience, Loose Ends.

Do you ever get caught up in the pursuit of perfectionism? If so, why? If not, why not?

The poem suggests befriending one of these: humility, patience, loose ends. Have you befriended any of these? How do these prevent us from being caught up in perfectionism?

Our song today is “Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle. In our quest to curb perfectionism, we must remember that ultimately our trust is not in our talents, power, cleverness, or even goodness. Our trust is in God.

 

Is there anything on this topic that you would like to share with us? We enjoy hearing from you!

 

 

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen August 1, 2016 at 5:28 am

Sr. Melannie,

I like the idea of befriending “loose ends.” I often am driven by getting through my list of things to do but leaving a few things at loose ends might help me trust God more.

Thanks for sharing your poem. God bless!

Kathleen

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Carol Di Marco August 4, 2016 at 8:56 am

Good advice for me! I will give it a try.

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John Hopkins August 1, 2016 at 6:44 am

Dear Sr. Melannie,

I look forward to your words every Monday morning. Thank you! Your poem implies that perfectionism is devoid of mercy. I completely agree. Kathleen, I, too, like the “loose ends” image of the poem. At times we want to tie things in neat knots, but we all know that if walk far enough, a shoe lace loosens!

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Janet August 1, 2016 at 9:52 am

Thank you for the reminder about perfectionism. As a #1 on the Enneagram I can relate. Recently I heard it said that “Perfect is not perfect.” That has become a mantra for me and now I enjoy the “not perfect” even more. Isn’t that perfect???

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Kathy McCoy August 1, 2016 at 9:54 am

I so look forward to your message every Monday morning. Thank you for sharing, Sr. Melannie!

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Mary August 1, 2016 at 9:55 am

Dear Sr. Melannie,
I just completed giving a Christ renews his parish retreat this weekend in our parish. I am such a “Martha” at heart. Yesterday the theme of perfectionism kept creeping its way into my heart and soul. It plagues me at times. How timely was your reflection. I will save it and refer back to it often. It was balm for my heart this morning.
Thank you and may God bless your day,
Mary

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Sister Mary Eamon Lyng August 1, 2016 at 10:00 am

Thank you for this prayer-poem offers much for me today as the day unfolds with the unexpected surprises! Patience is the key word today!

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Tina August 1, 2016 at 10:01 am

Sr Melannie,
As always you make me stop and think. I have been told… progress not perfection and I try to remind myself of that. Thanks so much for your words of wisdom every week!
Tina

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John August 1, 2016 at 10:47 am

I recently heard a news commentator say, “the only good Muslim is a bad Muslim.” He went on to explain that the majority of Muslims are wonderful people, but these good people are judged as bad by the terrorist Muslims.

I’ve since observed the same thing in nearly everything. Whether it is Tiger Woods in golf or a major league stare in baseball or CEO of a large corporation, it’s when they strive for perfection, when performance becomes a substitute for God, and they create chaos. Even true for Catholics. The only good Catholic is a bad Carholic.

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Barbara August 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

I love your blog, Sr. Melannie. Your words always leave me with thoughts to ponder. I am very attached to my ‘to do’ list, which I feel should be completed each day. Yet how important is each item in terms of eternity? That question needs to top my daily list! Thank you for sharing your wisdom with your readers. God bless.

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Andre Sequeira August 1, 2016 at 11:08 am

Dear Sr Melanie

Thanks for sharing your poem and reflections reminding us to befriend humility, patience and loose ends.

The song by Lauren Daigle, “Trust in you” is truly so inspirational.

Andre Perth Western Australia

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Karen Hartman August 1, 2016 at 11:27 am

The song that accompanied your inspiring message was very touching. Thanks for all of your inspirational messages.

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Mary Frances August 1, 2016 at 11:55 am

Ah, the gift of the loose ends and how they tickle us into reasonability!

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Patty August 1, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Thank you, Sister. Your poem is a reminder, to me, that I have to be kinder to myself.

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Jean August 1, 2016 at 2:42 pm

In Catholic high school we were always encouraged to do our best. That was our family mantra as well. I think that’s where my pursuit of “almost perfect” started. “Almost perfect ” was good enough for me, but seemed to be a higher bar than most people around me. I have learned not to expect my same standards of others, but I do need to be more patient with ” me”.

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Karen August 1, 2016 at 3:30 pm

I have a different view of “perfectionism”. Certainly I agree with the poem’s sentiment when seeking perfection becomes an end unto itself, but I have also known a number of people who truly take sustenance from doing a task the absolutely best that they can. Being asked to do a task poorly or haphazardly upsets their sense of balance and they feel violated. I also know people for whom perfection is an unwritten job requirement: engineers, doctors, pilots, drone operators. We demand their perfection but too often we don’t give them enough credit for their attention to detail. I believe we need to embrace those perfectionists among us and recognize them for their exemplary work, and at the same time, let them know that “its OK” even if they didn’t get to every since item on their list.

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jyosita snd August 1, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Thanks Melanie.i was almost going to give a lecture to my formees about lack of perfection. Your message reached me on time.

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Carole G August 1, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Each Monday I look forward to reading your blog!

In a book I am reading, “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Bene’ Brown there is a chapter called, “Cultivating Self-Compassion, Letting Go of Perfectionism”. Part of Bene’s definition of perfectionism states that it is a self-destructive and addictive belief system. If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgement, and blame. To overcome this we need to practice self-compassion.

Thank you Melannie for your challenging, thought provoking, and inspiring writing.

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PJ August 2, 2016 at 7:36 am

I love this blog and especially this song. I have heard on 95.5 all year and
It has been worked into much of my life these last years. I am a bit of perfectionist and like things done well. So the Lord puts into my life lately
Opportunities to let go of this urge and I am drawn to trust in Him because that’s the only thing I can do beside pray and trust in God . He
Truly helps us depend completely upon His love and mercy. So I have
adopted this as my theme song for the next year also. I am better for trusting in the Lord. Thank you for inspiring us to trust in the love and mercy of God.

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Diane August 2, 2016 at 5:23 pm

I was thinking that I am not a perfectionist…but today, maybe my strong need to be punctual could be somewhat perfectionism. I say that because I have to be on time, or usually early, to everything and it drives me crazy when I have to wait for my spouse (who is opposite of course!). Just this morning, we had a timeline to meet, and it was going to be difficult to make it. I prayed for patience, for calmness, thanking God for this stressful situation, and put it His hands. Wow, we ended up being comfortably early. God is good and keeps hacking away at my weeds!

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Beverly August 3, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Love your musings! Such wise words to ponder….
Love the song too! Oh, Lord, help me to trust in YOU!
Thank you.

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