Addiction to Perfection

When we are addicted we can never get enough of the thing we crave and our concept of nourishment can contract into a survival-based longing for more, coupled with a primal experience of not enough.

-author Christine Caldwell

Society condemns most addictions: drugs, alcohol, food, cigarettes. But what about addiction to something society nominally encourages, like perfectionism?

In our jobs, families, fitness, and even our spiritual path, the lines blur between healthy self-improvement and destructive perfectionism. The differences lie in what motivates us, and whether we can value and be grateful for the journey itself.

According to Christine Caldwell, addiction is never getting enough of the thing you crave. When we seek perfection in our spiritual practice, we seek the “right” way to meditate or pray; we believe that a particular self-help book or detox program will be the cure-all; we hope that by fasting or going on a silent retreat we will figure out what is missing. But regardless of the number of books we read, hours we meditate or retreats we attend, we are never satisfied. It’s just never enough.

Perfection is not the goal. Perfection sets you up for failure and supposes that your purpose, value and ability to receive and give love depend on fixing the broken person that you are.

You are not broken and you do not need to be fixed!

If there is any goal (though “goal” is such a loaded term), I believe it would be mindfulness—non-judgmental awareness. Mindfulness is seeing what is, not want we want to see. Mindfulness is being present and accepting the present moment.

We can begin by being aware of our breath, by observing the inhale and exhale. We can begin by watching how the breath moves in our bodies and if there are any “stuck” places where we store pain. By being fully in the present moment, we can compassionately, lovingly and courageously embrace whatever arises, and perhaps gradually break the cycle of addiction to perfection.

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