Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Gifts of Imperfection



Sometimes I try so hard to be perfect that I forget what really matters. "Perfect" has a lousy return on investment. -- Jennifer Hofmann

Perfectionism is one of those things that can get in the way of getting organized. For example, I see people trying to find the perfect new home for everything they are getting rid of - which is fine for 5 items, and not so fine for 500 or 5,000. Perfectionism is also a huge issue when it comes to time management.

So I was intrigued by The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown - and I'm glad I picked it up. Brown describes herself as "a recovering perfectionist and an aspiring good-enoughist" and writes about her own transformation:
I began to say "Oh hell yes!" rather than "Sounds fun, but I have lots of work to do" or "I'll do that when I'm _______ (thinner, less busy, better prepared)."
And Brown has this to say about perfectionism:
Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield we lug around thinking it will protect us. ...

Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance. Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievent and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports.) ...

Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis. Life-paralysis refers to all the opportunities we miss because we're too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect....

I don't think that some people are perfectionists and others are not. I think perfectionism exists along a continuum. We all have some perfectionistic tendencies.
The book has more to say about perfectionism, and much more to say about what Brown calls "wholehearted living" - practicing courage, compassion and connection. Much of it has nothing directly to do with organizing. But if this sort of thing appeals to you, consider picking up this book. It spoke to me; maybe it will speak to you.

5 comments:

Brené said...

So grateful that you connected with the work! I hired a professional organizer a couple of years ago and it changed my life! Thanks for the work you do!

Janice Wallace said...

Thanks for connecting me to this book. I agree that perfectionism exists along a continuum and stress can bring on a severe bout of it. Finding that sweet spot of just good enough and discerning what needs our very best can be tricky. I like the idea of saving my very best for the people in my life and good enough for everything else

The English Organizer said...

It troubles me to admit it, but I suspect I should be reading this book... ;)

Cynthia Friedlob said...

I like the phrase "laying down the shield and picking up your life" and the goal of being a "good-enoughist!"

Jeri Dansky said...

Janice, you are very welcome! I'm glad you (and The English Organizer, and Cynthia) found things here that resonated with you.