Is Perfectionism Possible? Finding the Balance

This idea of perfectionism these days can be a confusing one.

I often hear the phrase “progress not perfection.” Good enough. But every time I heard it, a bell went off somewhere up in my mind. For a while, I paid no attention to it. I was busy trying to take in the knowledge of compadres with more clean time than me. But that bell kept ringing and got louder each day. As I got more clarity on my life, I sat one day and listened deeply to that bell. I found some questions to ask myself:

What in the world was my issue with ‘progress not perfection’?

And why did I notice that I had such a drive for perfectionism in the first place?

I realized that I was setting myself up for failure by expecting perfection from myself. Like everyone else, I am an imperfect human who make mistakes. I was beating myself up because of my mistakes was just making the whole dynamic worse. Who can live up to such a standard of perfection? I declared myself a ‘perfectionist in recovery’.

But that bell just kept ringing. And ringing. I woke one morning and had an A-Ha moment. I finally ‘heard’ the message of the bell. Here it is:

We live in a world that in many ways demands and expects perfection.

A switch is either ‘on’ or ‘off’. We either get the math problem correct, or we do not. There is no grey area here. The light is either red, yellow, or green – and when we mistakenly put our foot on the gas at a red light, we make a colossal mistake. Here there is no room for error. Two things are equal, or they are not. And heaven help us in the world of computers, a world of only zeros and ones/on and off switches. We all know what happens when the wrong switch gets activated on a computer – our technological world comes to a screeching halt.

So, you see, this drive for perfectionism is based in some real programming that society has taught us and reinforces every day.

Our job, as I see it, is to straddle that line between perfectionism and progress. We need to apply our perfection with accuracy and precision in life for such things as making the decision to stop at a red light. We forgive ourselves when we realize that we are flawed human beings doing the best we can, and so drop the obsession for perfectionism.

Things can be confusing out there. I hear a lot of sayings and I am given a lot of advice and direction. I heed a lot of it. I also have learned to listen deeply to my own inner knowing. I need to make sure that the loving direction given so freely by so many doesn’t cross wires with some other programming in me that really is there for a good reason – my survival (and in the case of that red light, everyone else’s.)

I have re-declared myself a ‘straddling perfectionist in recovery’. How does that sound?

It’s all about conscious living. And ultimately, finding peace within.



Forgiveness is not an advanced practice; Forgiveness is a fundamental practice. Forgive yourself for your mistakes. Delve more deeply into your forgiveness practice with my 40 Days of Forgiveness Program.

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