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So many people struggle with the idea of perfectionism.For some, it shows up as making sure every detail is taken care of—being neat, dressing impeccably, and being overly cautious to avoid mistakes. My idea of perfection is people being good to one another, getting along with one another, and living happily ever after in my ideal Greek village! As you can imagine, that kind of expectation often sets me up for disappointment; never wanting discord, conflict, or arguments is an impossible demand to make.
When I looked back on my life to find the source of this idea of perfectionism, I remembered that as a young girl, barely a teenager, I created a fictional character named Anna who could do no wrong. She was perfect. She would say the perfect things and act in the perfect manner; she knew exactly how to interact with boys, and she even ate all the right things. I see now that this was my way of trying to figure out how to exist in a world in which my parents were separated and in so much pain as a result. I felt such uncertainty in my life that I was extremely insecure and vulnerable. Anna was my little friend who always knew what to do, and I relied on her perfection for a sense of security.
Using prayer to combat perfectionism
The Greek word for prayer is prosefchí, meaning “toward your wishes.” Our deepest wish is to find meaning and a sense of connection to something larger than ourselves. These are the great questions that we each ask: What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of my life? I believe that these fundamental questions can be answered by the power of prayer that connects us to the spirit within, to the God in each of us.
When I say God, I am referring to a transcendent power beyond what words can possibly describe. Whatever word you want to use, whether it is God, the light, spirit, the higher self, divine intelligence, the One, the I Am, universal love, a higher power, or anything else, please use it. It doesn’t matter what you call it as long as when you call, you remember that you are calling your maker and calling upon a power that lives in your every cell and in your very own breath.
Prayer has helped me to find my inner core, a sense of an inner Anna—not in striving to be perfect, but rather an internal and unconditional source of love, security, and acceptance, the beloved in me.
When I feel constricted by the desire for things to be perfect, prayer allows a soulfulness to become present and soften the edges of my ego.
Perfectionism sabotages creativity and prevents us from accepting reality as it is. Allow yourself the dignity of your imperfections as you are evolving. We are all works in progress, on our way to becoming the masterpieces of our perfect souls.
Perfectionism runs rampant in the arena of spirituality as well. When we step onto the spiritual path, we feel that we should be perfect. One of the things that deters people from a spiritual life is the deep knowing that spirit can dismantle all the structures we rely on in our lives as they are: who we think we are, how we think things should be, and what form we think our lives should take. Spirituality is, ultimately, a surrender to that which has no form. This relinquishing of control can be scary and runs directly counter to perfectionism, which is all about control.
Be mindful of spiritual perfectionism because the fundamental truth of spirituality is an acceptance and a love for how things are. I experience spirit as unconditional love that transforms our lower selves and embraces everything, including everything we call imperfections. Spirit is the ultimate alchemist, turning metals into gold.
What would your life be like if you gave up your ideal of perfectionism, whatever it looks like for you? That, in essence, is liberation.
A prayer for letting go of perfectionism
I see how my desire for things to be perfect and harmonious is costing me my well-being, my freedom, and my peace. I recognize the deep fear within me that if I let go, relax, and let things be as they are—sometimes messy and unpredictable, as life mostly is—everything will fall apart, including me.
I understand that my perfectionism was born out of a need for survival at a certain time in my life, when I believed that if I was perfect, I could control a world that, in my childhood, was out of control. If I was perfect, I would be okay.
I ask for a deeper and higher sense of presence, calm, and divine perfection of each situation, so that I may make unconditional love more important than anything.
In truth, I don’t know how to do this. The most I can do is admit that my perfectionism is preventing me from living fully in joy.
I ask now to let go of how I think things should be, so I may elevate my consciousness and see the perfection in how things are. After all, there are so many things over which I have no control, so what is the point of fighting? Release me from my resistance to reality and allow me to find inner balance and inner perfection, and not expect to find it in the outer world.
May I experience more gratitude in the midst of turmoil and give myself the space to release my judgments of myself that tell me I am not enough and turn my attention instead to the beauty to be found in life’s imperfections.
I exhale and I experience the unbinding of the ties that have closed me in. Now I can let myself really breathe and be in my perfect, divine expression.
So be it!
Adapted from SPEAKING WITH SPIRIT copyright © 2022 by Agapi Stassinopoulos. Used by permission of Harmony Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.