Redefining Perfectionism

Regrettably, I have not written as frequently as I would like.  As a full-time-employed peer specialist, the gravity of life affects me as it does everyone else.  I commute via bus.  I have errands to run on the weekend.  I need to clean my apartment to keep it presentable, although I shirk in this task according to my mother.

Things have changed now though.  For the next few weeks, I will have time to more writing.  This past Tuesday, I had foot surgery to correct a bunion on my right foot.  So now I am homebound as I slowly heal.  The first couple of days were very painful, and I could not ambulate much around the house.  I am sleeping a lot, even though I am not entirely “tired.”  Sleep is helping to pass the time, more than anything else.

My mind is no longer groggy, and so I should write now.

 

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I have been a perfectionist for many years.  Always, I have wanted to do things “correctly.”  “Perfectly.”  Externally, this can appear to be a good trait, given that perfectionism allows a person to strive for a high quality of work.  But it is also a fetter.  When I try to write perfectly, or draw perfectly, or play a piece of music perfectly, I more-often-than-not end up taking too many pauses in the task, stopping my creative flow while internally criticizing myself.

 

Why are you playing music?  You suck!

 

This art piece is dreadful.  Just stop while you’re behind.

 

Quit writing.  You’re not saying anything original.

 

While it is important to be critical and discerning during the process of writing and creating, this “inner perfectionist” does more harm than good.  It kicks me behind the knees, forcing me to the ground.  When I attempt to reach up, asking for a friendly hand of support, perfectionism simply spits in my face.

 

Perhaps I’ll call this inner demon by the name of “Maude.”

 

Truly, Maude offers no sort of constructive inspiration.  She is only a critic.  Akin to a nosy next-door neighbor, she invites herself into my headspace, plopping herself down onto my couch of a cranium, shooting orders as I try to create and craft.  Everything has to “go through her.”  Everything has to pass through the gauntlet of her “advice,” which is all-knowing and absolute.

 

For years, I have never been able to find a suitable way to get rid of Maude.  When I try to push her away, she yells at me:

 

You can’t create anything without me.  You need me.  You need my advice.  If you don’t heed my word, then your work will be a mess, and no one will appreciate or understand it.

 

My fear of being wasteful with my time causes me to cling to Maude, even though I hate her so.  No amount of intelligence on my part has been able to rationalize her away.  She has caused me years of misery and despair.  Her nefarious voice has bled past even my creative endeavors, infecting other aspects of my life.  Namely, relationships with other people.

 

Those people are not good for you.  They have opinions that are wrong and not compatible with yours.  Avoid them.

 

In previous years, during attacks of psychosis, I was consumed with the tangential thought that I was the reincarnation of Beethoven.  His presence in my mind was overwhelming and impossible to ignore.  Thankfully these days, I am more of sense, so I simply say that I find the composer to be a source of inspiration.  A deaf man, writing glorious music.  A person with a disability, specifically defying his very impairment to heights beyond even the average-hearing person.

 

Thoughts of Beethoven as inspiration now allow me to live more peacibly with Maude.  I think of how he approached his own music-making.  He was very meticulous, and edited everything to the nth degree.  Perhaps he too was a perfectionist, but yet… his music seems to aim for something beyond perfection.  It aims for greatness.

 

And thus, the whole concept of perfection is redefined.  Instead of approaching perfectionism as a filter that discerns “right from wrong,” we can view perfectionism as merely a desire to achieve something that is “great.”  “Noble.”  “Understanding of the human condition.”  “That which channels wisdom.”  “That which uplifts humanity.”  Whatever your ideals and beliefs are, these can be infused into your own personal definition of “perfectionism.”  The word is thus redefined, and its crippling negative influence is therefore negated.

 

Beethoven has enabled me to fight against Maude.  In reaction, Maude now simply reclines in a corner of my mind, a school marm with a bell in hand.  When it is time for me to stop working, due to fatigue, she simply rings the bell and I retire.  The greatest purpose she serves, is to get me to stop working.  Which too is useful in the larger picture.  One cannot work without stop.

 

Thank you to Maude, and thank you to the idea of Beethoven.

 

 

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