Perfectionism is the Voice of the Oppressor, and Other Stories…

I was going through some old notebooks and journals the other day, and found another note that my teenage self had written to the grown up me.  There are a few of these gems scattered in my things — messages I wrote as a teenager that were aimed at my thirtysomething self.  In fact, my lifetime of journaling contains more than a few items that comprise a dialogue between me and myself, across decades.

It’s weird, and wonderful, and probably one of the best things I ever did for myself — remembering as a child to give instructions to the Meredith I hoped I’d become one day.

(And then, of course, there are notes to girlfriends; messages to myself about what I want to think; margin marks about my teenage life…and I remember that I was thirteen, sixteen, nineteen, twenty five when I wrote these things.)

But more than one of these notes says, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.”  As if my young self knew that the perfectionist instinct — that weird hamster churning its wheel in my head — would derail me more than once in my adult life.

I wish my younger self hadn’t cared so much about judgment — by the world and by grown up Meredith.  And I wish my marginally older-but-perhaps-not-wiser self hadn’t cared so much about perfection; form over substance.  There was a time when I thought my life would  be complete with the right bag or dress; my marriage would have been happy if I’d just had enough spoonulas or the right color of matching tea towels; my household would be full of love if I just selected the correct Diptyque scent.

My life is messy; imperfect. I’m starting to accept that.

And in accepting imperfection, I realize how wise my younger self was.

There will be (many) days when I still wish my life were perfect — when I resent the puppy and the shag carpet that sheds and the tub that backs-up and the neighbors whose dinner is stinking up my apartment.

But then I remember — I do — that perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor…and I think about letting go.

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  1. Wise words – I am always trying to let go of perfectionism. Not letting perfect be the enemy of the good. Enjoying the fun of failure is not my forte, but I am seeing that I fail to do so many things I want to do for fear of imperfection.

  2. Do you (either of you) feel like you need someone around you to teach you how to be more easy-going, spontaneous, up-beat no matter what, imperfect? Or do you feel capable of teaching yourselves by way of simply choosing? Do you feel worse when around people who are exactly what you used to be and are trying so hard not to be?

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