As promised, here is part 2 of Confessions of a Perfectionist. In this post, I will focus on how to enjoy life's imperfections. I can think of many different ways to accomplish just that, but I don’t want to end up writing about 101 tips. The more I think about it, the more I believe those 101 + tips can be summarized under 3 action steps. So here we go!
Step 1: See Things Clearly
I once read a story about a woman who criticized her neighbor’s laundry every time she looked out her window. She would say things like, “She needs to change her laundry detergent…Didn’t anyone teach her how to do laundry?” Then one day her husband woke up early and cleaned their windows and the lady looked through the glass and said, “Someone finally showed her how to do laundry!” Her husband replied, “I cleaned OUR windows.”
It’s all a matter of perspective. What do you see when you look out the window of your life? What gloomy stuff appears through your perceived imperfections? Remember the saying about seeing the glass half full instead of half empty? Well, that’s exactly what I mean by seeing clearly. In other words, having a clear view of yourself, others, and the world.
Life is messy and nobody is perfect (we already established that in part 1) but if we simply focus on the bad, we rob ourselves of the good. My goal was to have this blog post done by the 15th but that didn’t happen. Instead other business related duties and opportunities happened. I can beat myself up for not meeting my goal or I can do better next time and actually be proud that last week I was able to put in extra work to solidify 2 new contracts. I can be disappointed at myself for rescheduling a counseling session last week when I had a flat tire or I can be thankful that I had established a strong enough relationship with my client that she was understanding and willing to meet at a different time. Things will happen that disturb our plans and get us off track, but I encourage you to look at the other half of the glass. It’s all a matter of perspective!
Even when you don’t get the promotion, that doesn’t mean you have nothing to contribute or worse yet, that you failed. Maybe you didn’t pass a test, but that doesn’t mean you are not smart. So you screwed something up at home; that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not committed to your family. You are not a bad mom, employee, leader, entrepreneur, pastor, friend, spouse, or person just because you got 1 thing wrong! Think of the other 99 things you’ve done right!
Step 2: Accept What You See
Once you see clearly, you then have to accept what you see. The lady at the window had to accept that her neighbor actually knew how to do the laundry and that instead, her own glass windows were dirty and not her neighbor’s laundry. This can be a humbling experience!
Life is full of things we cannot change, things that are out of our control, things that we can do absolutely nothing about. Once we see those things clearly, we need to accept them in order to appreciate those imperfections we see in ourselves, in others, and in the world. As I often say, “It is what it is and I just have to accept it for what it is!
I can’t change my children’s brain chemistry, neither can I subtract the unhealthy hereditary cells out of my genetic makeup. I might not like that things are this way but I’m not going to overwhelm myself with anxiety and stress over something that I cannot change. I’m not saying that we should live passive lives and not be proactive about what happens to us. I am saying that when things happen that we can do absolutely nothing about, we can either frustrate ourselves with those imperfections or we can choose to focus our energy on something that we can actually do something about. And this brings me to my third and last point.
Step 3: Choose JOY!
When we get stuck on life’s imperfections, we are actually punishing ourselves. It’s like telling yourself, I will not be happy until this or that happen. Remember, things will happen that are out of our control and when we live with the mentality of delayed happiness, we might never be happy. No one can predict with accuracy what will happen tomorrow, so choose joy today!
You might be in the midst of a very challenging situation and I’m not negating the severity of what you are going through, but I know that when we choose joy, things slowly but surely become more manageable. I am not asking you to run away from your problems nor to dwell in unsafe conditions. I am encouraging you to make the best of every situation. People often say, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” I have a personalized version of that popular saying. “Life WILL give you lemons. You can either be sour or make the best lemonade you can and enjoy every sip of it!”
We can also apply this to the goals we set for ourselves. Do not set yourself up for failure; set yourself up for success. What is that you want to accomplish? What do you already have at your disposal that will help you accomplish that goal? Bank on those things, on what is already working well for you. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, reach for the sky but keep your feet on the ground. While you are working on where you want to go, don’t forget to lean on where you are. Those skills, assets, resources, people, and places can help you get to where you want to be. In other words, get some traction before the take off. We can either be fixated on things that are not going the way we planned, hoped, or dreamed, OR we can choose to enjoy what’s actually going well for us.
I leave you with this:
Do more of what you love, without fear of failure. Be gracious toward yourself ; especially when life throws curveballs at you. When stuck, repeat steps 1, 2, and 3.
Your friend, Chou Gabikiny
PS: Have a happy Thanksgiving and choose joy!
Chou writes about disAbilities, mental health, parenting special needs children, faith and everyday life.