A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Have you ever asked yourself, what is good enough? Anytime you start a task, what level of achievement do you expect? Do you have a benchmark for good enough? Is the amount of effort that matters to you, or is it the outcome? Is success an absolute for you?
Many HSPs are hung up on perfectionism. At times, I can be fanatical about achieving a goal or completing a task and being perfect. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why this is the case for some of us – from people pleasing, low self-esteem, or simply a programmed obsession with being perfect.
There appears to be a misguided notion that anything worth doing is worth doing perfectly, and if you’re not going to do it perfectly – why do it? But is perfection even possible? Isn’t this an impossible belief, a form of absolutism? A striving for excellence can only mean surpassing mere good enough or even your best effort to attain absolute perfection. It is a lofty aspiration.
What can we say about the belief that there is a universal truth that only perfection is acceptable?
First, let’s look at this a bit closer.
Striving for Excellence
As a primary mission, there is no fault in striving for excellence in any task or endeavor. Setting a goal and striving to achieve that goal, in my opinion, is a noble goal. But, like many life journeys, the road is full of potholes and detours. Our original goal need not be rigid, with one path, but should reflect and adjust to the many deviations that life throws us. In fact, rigidity is the enemy of perfection. Perfectionism is a corruption of excellence in that it embraces rigidity and makes the goal almost unachievable.
Rather than striving for excellence, we offer our best effort to any task, expecting alterations and changes in the route. This allows for a level of tolerance that is not perfect but still allows a completion close enough to our original goal that rewards our best effort.
Striving for excellence is how we perform our tasks. Making corrections and improvements along the way, like guided missiles, we ultimately make subtle, sometimes drastic changes to reach our destination.
This proposition requires the appreciation and adoption of good enough at times. Not much of a severe compromise if it gets us to our goal.
The Perils of Perfectionism
Perfectionism is like a disease that eats away at any effort and requires an impossible and absolute execution far exceeding normal human capabilities. The fear of perfectionism, or the withdrawal from an attempt due to anxiety that a task will not be executed perfectly, often keeps us from trying challenging tasks. Moreover, because of an absolutist expectation of perfection, we prejudge ourselves out of competition for fear that we can reach the elusive, not impossible, prize.
Perfectionism can serve as a convenient excuse not to like ourselves. For inherently, we all know that we are not perfect. And, failing to attain perfection, we reinforce an unrealistic notion that we are not good enough.
Perhaps, it comes through us as an attempt to please others, i.e., “if I am perfect, people will love me.” What a lousy bargaining chip for garnering love and acceptance. The stress on the self to achieve an uncommon perfection level can be debilitating for some. There is no room for ‘good enough’ in their lexicon.
Yet, what is good enough?
The Ideal Quest for Enough
First, we must eliminate the idealization of perfection and toss the idea that we can be perfect in all we do. The good enough mentality sometimes is the only way to accomplish a goal. This especially is true for first-time efforts and trying out new, unproven tasks. Accomplishments come easy to some, more difficult for others.
Secondly, find where the task or goal fits your values and priorities. Then, measure your success against those values and nothing else. Perhaps, just getting the job done is achievement enough. That’s what we call good enough.
Thirdly, don’t sell good enough down the drain as a mediocre or lackluster performance or, as they say, an “also ran” effort. Sometimes good enough is GOOD ENOUGH—everything we do need not be a record-breaking world performance.
Often what we see as perfection is an undetected series of good enough efforts to craft a fine point on something that is merely good enough. In effect, the polish on the silverware makes something ordinary look sparkly and perfect.
Lastly, we must learn to accept that we are not perfect in everything we do. Therefore, we give the goal and task our best efforts, fueled by passion and values rather than driven by some abstraction of idealized perfectionism.
A Happy Medium
Don’t get me wrong; I think striving for excellence is a good goal. It lifts our work from simply passable to something more indicative of our skill sets and talents. However, we should always do our best for nothing more than our personal integrity.
But, let go of absolutism. There is likely no absolute truth, wisdom, perfection, or knowledge that is not subject to criticism or improvement. For the most part, I think life is a series of successive approximations of truth. We are constantly correcting, allowing us to flow with the changes. Rigidity is the great destroyer of life. Perfectionism is a formulaic rigidity that stifles and is anti-growth.
Finding your “good enough” is about seeking a comfortable level of truth about your abilities, skills, etc., and how they can be used in the world. Letting perfectionism inhibit your willingness to fail and learn is a recipe for a frustrated and stilted life.
Good enough is not necessarily about resignation but agreement within yourself that you have worked something long enough and it’s time (good enough) to let it go into the world.
As an author, I have tried to write, rewrite and restructure books, written pieces, and articles to get them to their best. Then at some point, I let it go and release it as it is, knowing that it is not perfect. However, I have found that most people are not looking to read perfection but will be happy with a good enough read that has meaning and significance to them.
So, look for your good enough. Sometimes it’s a feeling, sometimes an objective optic that tells you that you have arrived at your place of completion. Don’t let perfectionism stop you, and recognize that you are good enough, just as you are. Rest in that.
Please comment with your thoughts.
Bill Allen currently lives in Lutz, Florida. He previously lived in Bend, Oregon. He is a certified hypnotist and brain training coach at BrainPilots.com. He believes that male sensitivity is not so rare, but it can be confounding for most males living in a culture of masculine insensitivity which teaches boys and men to disconnect from their feelings and emotions. His intent is to use this blog to chronicle his personal journey and share with others.