by Karen Wilber
My name is Karen, and I’m a perfectionist. That is, I’m a recovering perfectionist, since I still tend to turn a critical eye toward my appearance — a bulge here, a sag there, a face that doesn’t photograph well. However, I have overcome the fear of having someone enter my house, lest they witness the mass destruction only two boys can deliver.
For too long, perfectionism ruled my life. I wasn’t learning from my mistakes. I was too busy trying not to make mistakes. I had a difficult time bouncing back from failure. The tiniest faux pas became magnified under my own intense scrutiny. My scowling inner critic was making me and my family, miserable.
Perfectionism robbed me of the simple joy of living. I spent so much time scribbling in my inner grade book that I missed out on the peace that comes from knowing that I can fall on my face and get up laughing. Back then, I thought I had to know everything. Now, I know better.
Years ago, I took an improvisational acting class from an instructor who had worked with the Second City comedy theater. Each week I went up on stage, in front of my peers, with no script, just a scenario and a fellow classmate to work with. We were on our own, under the lights, making it up as we went along. Occasionally I did well, I was clever and my timing was on the mark. Sometimes, I was awful: tongue-tied and brain dead. It wasn’t easy, but by the end of the semester I’d learned an important lesson: failure will not kill me.
I’ve discovered a life past perfect — finding that I’d never really felt good until I learned it’s OK to be bad. Without my fear of failure, the pressure was off. I started trying activities that I had avoided before: dance, art, writing, cooking. I learned how to say no to requests, even if it meant disappointing others for a time. I learned how to laugh at myself.
Long ago, Persian rug makers would deliberately add a small flaw -- a faulty stitch -- to their work to show their devotion to God. They believed that only God could create something perfect, and that to create perfection themselves was to dishonor God. This humble act of devotion lent its name to the phrase “Persian flaw.”
While I still get a thrill from an effort that would garner a standing ovation from Martha Stewart, I find just as much joy in the hodgepodge of homemaking, and parenting, that is my usual life. I don’t have to make everything perfect. I celebrate my own Persian flaws, humble reminders that I should not expect perfection.
Karen Wilber is mom to two boys in St Petersburg, Florida, (karenalongtheway.blogspot.com/).