I’ve spent much of my life trying to do an amazing job at everything I do. And in many respects, I’ve succeeded. But it’s never been enough. And it’s always been a extra burden of stress for me.
When I was young, I didn’t want to just pass my classes in school, I wanted to do them perfectly. This meant that studying didn’t just take an average amount of time, it meant that it had to take all of the available time.
In business, I did the same. As a photographer, I obsessed over the details, and went above and beyond the extra mile for my clients. And again, it took all of my time.
I wanted to look good to my clients, I wanted to look good to my family, I wanted people to be amazed. And basking in their amazement, I hoped I would finally be somebody.
But not only did it not work (which was depressing), it took all my time and all my energy. And a part of me rebelled. A part of me always wanted to get out of my job, or out of my school assignments—to just take time for me.
So I did that too. I lived in an ashram for a decade. And it was good. But even there I tried to be the perfect student of enlightenment. And again the pressure. Again the frustration. The same trap.
I have questioned many variations of “I need to do an amazing job” in different situations, and what I’ve found is that it is not true. I don’t need to do an amazing job at all. I just need to do an average job. That’s good enough to make a living, to learn new things, to grow spiritually, to keep a balanced life.
In fact, this article is a great example of this for me right now. For some reason, the thoughts are not crystal clear as I’m writing. They’re still just forming. And I notice the impulse to scrap it and start over and keep researching and refining my thoughts before posting this.
But as a result of what I’ve found through inquiry, I am practicing a different approach. And I really love it. The approach of “good enough.” Everything is a work in progress for me now. I don’t need to wow anyone. Things start tiny and sloppy and grow from there. That’s good enough for me.
It’s less and less about pleasing others, and more and more about me just honestly doing what I can at each step and moving on. It’s less about glorious end goals, and more and more about just doing the simple job at hand.
If you have similar perfectionistic tendencies. Here are some ways you can do The Work.
1. Ask yourself, “Who am I trying to please?” in the situation where you are trying to do it perfectly. Then write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on them. For me, it was my mom who used to both expect high grades and praise me when I got them. But she shows up now in other people in different situations.
2. Ask yourself, “Who am I afraid will disapprove?” Again, this leads to a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, or some one-liners about that person.
3. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Write it down, and then question, “I want to accomplish…” I love questioning my motives, and finding more effective and more peaceful action without them.
4. And finally, question, “I need to do an amazing job.” It can be so freeing to question this one.
Have a great week,
“The irony is that the struggle to win love and approval makes it very difficult to experience them. Chronic approval seekers don’t realize that they are loved and supported not because of but despite their efforts. And the more strenuously they seek, the less likely they are to notice.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love Is That True?