In the past I was never the kind of person able to say "I did my best" and leave it at that. As long as I can remember I have strived for an ideal, a perfect "whatever" that was so good it was beyond criticism, even my own. In all of my 51 years that has never happened. All compliments have been taken with a "yeah but", or several "if onlys". I've always focused on what could have been better and not celebrated what went well.
I realize now that this is exhausting and frustrating and FUTILE. It feels what I imagine is like a never ending Ground Hog's Day loop. I understand that I have been striving for the impossible and I eventually let that wear me down.
Where did I ever get the idea that I had to be perfect to be of value? In reading more and more about a highly sensitive person, I realize that is just part of my dna. My head and heart have never known any other way to be. The child in me must have been so affected by my own reaction to the criticism I received when I made mistakes, that the adult in me attempted to never make any.
There is no perfect anything in a black and white mind like I once had. There is always a judgment, a critique, a report card, a here's what you could do better next time thought. It is exhausting to attempt to drive yourself toward a perfect "anything"--- you get caught up in judging yourself against your last performance, or against the performance of others -- a completely unfair, highly critical trap that causes years to go by like the blink of an eye, with little chance to experience any personal joy.
This past year I came face to face with the dark side of my perfectionism and the shame it brings. I am happy to say that I squared off against it and have since learned to accept that I will never be perfect in my actions, or in my thoughts, feelings, performance, writing, cooking; I will never be perfect in anything. Especially if I am the judge. No matter how hard I try, nothing will ever reach my idealistic standards.
I will never be perfect. Nor will attempting to be perfect make me more lovable, more worthy, more of value than I already am.
Yet even as I say it out loud... I will never be perfect, I hear a tiny whisper inside telling me it's a cop out, an excuse not to do my best work. (Clearly that is an area I need to work on).
For anyone who shares my perfectionism, this admitting that I am not perfect is a huge step in the right direction. I will never be perfect, nor will my own judgment of my performance ever not have criticisms attached. But --- I no longer let that mean voice have the floor. I acknowledge she's in there, but I let the calm voice who looks at the positive side and sees the good in what I did, take charge.
Now when I say that I did my best, it is enough. I am enough.
Some of you will not understand how huge this is. Others may laugh at me -- or have no frame of reference to understand where I am coming from. That too, I have learned, is perfectly okay. My message will not resonate with everyone. It may only be relevant to 20% of the people on earth, the 20% who are wired like me. The 20% who are highly sensitive people.
I am perfectly imperfect. And that is good enough for me.