How to be Good Enough: the Perfectionist’s Guide to Happiness

Do you know an overworked, under-appreciated, bitter employee- one that may get paid well, but is never happy? I’d like to suggest that overworked, under-appreciated, bitter employee is the Inner Critic taking up residence in your head. If you’re a perfectionist, you know this to be true. Your Inner Critic, let’s call her Madge, is never satisfied and continually believes you should do more, produce more, be respected more, be paid more, and above all be more perfect. She sits in the passenger seat of your car and tells you how others should know better, and do better. She yammers away at the side of your bed reminding you of the blunders you made earlier that day. She whispers in your ear at social functions that the people in the corner are avoiding you and can’t wait for you to leave. She sulks and stamps, whining, “it will never be good enough! No matter how hard you try, it will. Never. Be. Good. Enough!” When she’s at her worst, she’ll substitute “You” for “it,” and then her attacks become personal. Madge is duplicitous, suffering with black and white thinking. If you’re not the most successful, then you’re nothing. If you’re not the highest paid, then you’re a failure. If you’re not the most sought after, then you’re a loser. If you’re not the perfect mother, then you’re mommy dearest. If you’re not the most beautiful, then you’re ugly. If you aren’t the best, then you’re the worst. How could you? What were you thinking? Why are always so impossible?

Madge procrastinates. She convinces you to put things off until they become overwhelming and overdue- mostly because the prospect of getting it up to perfectionist standards seems impossible. And if you do it imperfectly, it will be a complete flop. And you’ll be the flop too.

Madge is a split personality- either Pollyanna with childish wishful thinking, or doomsday Drazilla pessimistic to the core.  Ne’er the two shall meet!

Madge is judgmental. She judges others and their motives harshly because she judges you harshly too.

Madge is stuck in the emotionally immature valley of duplicity, unable to integrate the good sides of self and the bad sides of self.

Madge is a victim, mad at people and society and authority who keep her down, but powerless to do anything about them.

Madge is sad. And afraid. And hiding.

How to Reform Madge into Magic

  • Madge needs a new role. Instead of being bitter and disapproving, Madge’s new assignment is to be a realist.  She needs to see the reality that you are human and humans aren’t perfect. To expect perfection is delusional and very un-clever. Madge doesn’t want to be un-clever. She just wants to be loved. So be careful not to fire Madge all together. Just put her on probation until she can grow up a bit, have a more realistic view of herself and the world.
  • Offer yourself plenty of UPR- Unconditional Positive Regard. Don’t love yourself in spite of the mistakes, love yourself inside of the mistakes. When you’re at your lowest, your worst, your least presentable, give yourself an emotional hug and say, “You’re alright, you’re just being human.” Madge will protest this way of thinking because she’s afraid of rejection and shame. She’ll freak out and threaten doom, “Something terrible will happen if you fail!” Tell her, “thank you for your concern, I’ve noted it. Now please calm yourself down and tend to your new job- reality.”
  • Integrate your Yin and your Yang, your good and your bad, your head and your hiney. As long as you’re human, you’re going to make choices that lead to amazing results, and choices that lack the results for which you were hoping. Then, there are times you’ll just make a hiney of yourself. Welcome to the world of being human. Accept it, integrate it and move on. Madge wants you to stay split in the “all or nothing,” but you know now that only emotional children believe in the “all or nothing.” And you’re not an emotional child anymore, are you?
  • Accept yourself as GOOD ENOUGH. Here’s the memo you want to send Madge, “I’m a good enough _______________ to get the job done God has asked me to do.”

Perfectionism can stop innovation, creativity and the ability to take risks. The essence of faith is found in dreaming, in hoping, in trying- not in results. Achievement and results are great, but it is in the faith effort of the actions that lend personal growth. Reassigning perfection to God alone, letting Madge off the perfectionism hook, and accepting yourself with heavy doses of UPR will make you a much happier person.

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