Perfectionism seeps into the manual, the book of truth that contains our instructions for being happy and turns it all into wingdings: indecipherable, impossible to follow, with no resolve and no mercy.
Perfectionism is the enemy of happiness. It robs us of our ability to see ourselves, forgive ourselves and love ourselves. It tells us that our self-worth is bound exclusively to our achievements. We are sent off on a wild goose chase - off our little paths through the forest - in search of more letters in front of our names, more lines on our CV. We run and run - rushing to the end of our story and forgetting to live it on the way. Then we sit down exhausted, tearful, panting and confused - clutching our pieces of paper and asking them “why won’t you love me? Why won’t you stroke my hair and tell me I’m doing ok?” And they look back at us and say - that wasn’t what we’re here for! We cannot mend your heart or tend to the hurt and sadness life gave you. We are life’s equipment; we are track shoes and helmets and engines and things that can make your journey easier. We are not feelings, we are not flesh and blood. We are not happiness you wonderful, idiot human. YOU are happiness! It is coursing through your cells and veins - your lovableness is hidden in the crinkle of your eyes, your crooked teeth, your worries in the night, your love of horror films and sad music, your bad dancing and stale morning breath. That is the CV of life; the little, foolish things that need to be nurtured and enjoyed so that we can fall into the arms of other foolish, broken humans and sit there in a happy heap thanking god that someone saw us...and stayed.
Perfectionism isn’t something that can be easily removed - it is so ambient that we barely recognise the original language we were taught, because we speak this tongue better and more fluently. The language of self critisicm and hatred and judgement. We become more comfortable with whips than kindness because that is what we train ourselves on.
But there is hope. Our mother tongue was kindness, and that language never really leaves us. It sits deep in our bones, whispering to us - “i’m still here, just open your ears.”
Scrawled on the back of a napkin by Jess Bird