Anti-Perfectionism: A lesson on being objective and owning your shit

So, I learned another life lesson recently:

“Be objective and own your shit.”

When things don’t go to plan and mistakes are inevitably made, it is so tempting to dive right on into the blame-game. It’s too easy to assume that being the perfect victim in a scenario is the preferred position, in as much as we believe everyone around us will “quite rightly” run to our aid and throw shade at the opposition. Saves us the burden of a guilty conscience and all that… or at least that’s what we like to believe in the moment.

Sometimes that is precisely the way it should be. The antagonist in this tale is legitimately in the wrong and 100% deserves to be called out on it. But other times – if not most of the time – these stories are far from clear-cut.

Because we be humans, not angels.

Look at the plethora of contemporary TV dramas available now, and you’ll see just how universally popular the subject matter of anti-heroism is compared to the classic depictions of pure good versus pure evil. Most of us can thoroughly relate to the internal struggles of right and wrong and oftentimes we find ourselves sympathising with the supposed “bad guy”.

Image result for anti heroes

Anti-hero baes. Source:

However, at the risk of losing face and flapping in front of the judge and jury, the more perfectionistic individuals among us may prefer simply to point the finger at someone else and plead innocent. Really, much of our defensiveness is aimed at our own inner knowing, the part of us that knows our warts and all, reminding us by way of tight vocal cords, tension, irritability and disturbed sleep not long after we’ve fired shots at our enemies.

As you can gather, this lesson relates to the call to challenge perfectionism. I call this ‘anti-perfectionism’. I need to copyright that shit.

There’s a real tension in the relationship between personal responsibility and perfectionism. On one hand, a perfectionistic individual may not want to assume responsibility of flawed events for fear of facing their imperfections head on. On the other hand, perfectionism asks the individual to assess themselves and thereby identify personal flaws that may act as crucial steps forward in the pursuit of self-improvement…

Here’s the thing: it’s actually really empowering to accept autonomy and take objective ownership of the shit we do “wrong” (inverted commas because wrong and right are waaaaaay subjective).

That doesn’t mean to say we need never apologise for our actions because “eh, nobody’s perfect.” No. It takes great courage to acknowledge the inconvenience or discomfort our self-serving actions may cause to other parties and show them that you care… even when you believe you deserve an apology back.

In other words, be the bigger man… man.

And this life lesson isn’t necessarily about forgiveness. In many of life’s twists and dark turns forgiveness is just not on the cards. I get that.

This life lesson, for me anyways, is far more about self-awareness, about being the powerful author of my own narrative rather than reducing myself to a helpless side-character in need of rescue. I’ve been through my share of dark days, and if I’ve learned anything of use in those times, it’s that victimhood just makes me feel like I have no control on my situation, leading, predictably, to anxiety and depression. Yeah, I’m over that shit.

Instead, through the simple act of self-care, I provide myself with the tools to assess my situation in a calm, patient, objective manner. Before long, I’m ready to dry-swallow the pill of ownership. Even if I react on the spot and chuck the victim card in the face of my adversaries, that’s fine. Later, after a cup of tea, I’ll realise that I could have maaaaybe been a bit more reasonable. That is precisely the point of anti-perfectionism. So long as I learn to take ownership of a difficult situation and face that responsibility in a timely manner, no matter how flawed the initial response, I’m on the right track. And, the more objective I can get about my thoughts, emotions and behaviours, the less likely I’m going to repeat an action that put me in that sticky situation in the first place. And that is the ultimate stepping stone for self-improvement. It’s almost… perfect.

So, in sum, perfectionism is an imperfect trait, and imperfect humans are more ‘perfect’ than they realise.

Be objective and own your shit. You’ll love yourself for it.


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