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I’m Declaring War on Perfection

I think my American roots (and perhaps being back on American soil) may have something to do with choosing the words “declaring war” rather than “taking a stance” or “acting against”. Perhaps I am a bit dramatic with it, but those who know me, know that I can be (maybe it is some latent desire for theatre coming out in my middle age). But as I have reflected over the past few days about writing this and the words to use, “declaring war” is how I feel.

I have been in a lot of discussions over the past month, as with trying to create awareness about my new business direction, I have been reaching out to a lot of people from my past, whether past means a few months or in some cases, 30 years or more.

I’ve also joined some interesting discussions on gender, such as “why aren’t there more women joining engineering, and what can we do about it?”.

Through a lot of these discussions, both private and public, there is a common thread (or “red thread” as the Swedes like to say): perfection. Don’t worry, I won’t share any of your individual details, as your story is yours to tell, but I do plan to talk about my own, and also the “red thread” of pain that comes from perfection.

Perfection as a goal for any individual is an impossible goal. Humans are unique, with unique contributions, both strengths and weaknesses. It took me a really long time to acknowledge this, probably only in my mid 30’s as an initial thought, but many of the paradigm shifts (Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, Carol Dreck’s Growth vs. Talent Mindset, and the recognition and acknowledgement of a deeply unmet need identified during Compassion Cultivation Training) that allowed me to let go of the ideal of perfection didn’t come until my 40’s (that means within the last decade of my life).

In some sense, I feel that I have been freed from chains that bind me. But I still feel them, even though I know they are no longer there. But since I have worn those chains all my life, I still have the phantom ache or pain, or initial thought they are there, until I acknowledge that I am no longer letting them restrict me. For more on this, read my earlier blog that I wrote as input to the gender discussion.

And too many people around me feel it too. While women are absolutely held to impossible ideals of “having it all”, “duktig flicka”, etc, men also bear the burden of perfectionist expectations (don’t believe it? Try reading Father Figure by Jordan Shapiro to read about the mixed messages put on men) that are certainly heightened by birth order, culture, society, and personality.

That is why I have decided to declare war on perfection.

This means that…

… every chance I have, I will question impossible ideals through logic and reason, as well as empathy and compassion.

… I will share and communicate more with my friends, family, and communities my own weaknesses, fears, and doubts.

… I will encourage others to first acknowledge, accept, then embrace their whole self (good and bad, beautiful and ugly, imperfect, messy, uniquely you).

… I will challenge stereotypes, expectations, and definitions of what it is good or right or correct against true principles.

… I will continue my journey to accept and love myself, recognising that I will never achieve perfection, but that my greatest contribution will be through compassion for myself and others, leveraging my strengths, and managing or mitigating my weaknesses. This is a lifelong journey, a puzzle that will never be finished (until I die), but a light to aim for.

And lastly…

… I will aim to show compassion to those around me, seeing their beautiful unique and messy self, and strive to refrain from judging or passing values.

I hope if you read this, you might consider joining me. If you find “declaring war” doesn’t fit your culture or personality, perhaps you could consider to “take a stance” and adopting some or all of the commitments above.

If you need help to get there, I am starting a free community for compassion and will start with some small compassion workshops. This will be nowhere near as intensive and complete as Compassion Cultivation Training, but a starting point on a journey to compassion. If you are interested, please let me know by signing up (no charge) to join the community and/or my newsletter where I’ll share more information.

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