Monday, September 14, 2009

Progress Not Perfection.

I was in Al-Anon for quite some time before it ever began to dawn on me that I was a mad perfectionist. I'd been resisting this realisation, and I recall when it finally slammed home full force. I was making a dog sweater for my small dog. (I hadn't understood, until I had a small dog, that people dress them in sweaters because they're cold, not because it's cute. Anything under 20 pounds, and they will be shivering on a walk, and that tugs at the heartstrings, especially if one is warmly dressed oneself.)

I was having trouble placing the miniscule sleeves, and had already ripped them out and resewn them several times, when all at once I stopped and thought - it's a dog sweater! It's not for the queen! Who cares if there's a wrinkle in the seam!

The dog certainly doesn't.

This was an enormous startling revelation for me, and I went to my meeting that night, and shared it with my group - I was so excited about this new understanding. I wasn't far into my share, and I could hear the odd smothered giggle, and then a laugh, and this built until the entire group was howling with laughter. My sponsor told me later, that for her, it was the mental picture of me fighting with those tiny sleeves, for a dog sweater, and giving myself a hard time for not doing it perfectly the very first time, that did her in.

I learned two things from this experience: firstly, to pay attention to my internal dialogue, and when it whispers to me that whatever it is I'm working on isn't perfect and maybe I should redo it, I can respond with a firm "It's just fine, it's not for the queen, it's just a ___" and secondly, that my own frailties, if admitted honestly, can give us all a good laugh.

Only God is capable of perfection, and I no longer expect it of myself, or my loved ones. Holding myself or my alcoholic to that impossible standard is a recipe for resentment, shame and bitterness.

I cannot do what is not humanly possible, and my best is good enough.


  1. What a perfect post. Pretty good for someone who is not a perfectionist. :)

    I'm better at not trying to be one.


  2. I have this same problem and finally I realized, "Hey, I don't have to be perfect. God doesn't expect me to, so why should I expect it from myself?" What a weight off my shoulders.

  3. I can just picture your working on those little sleeves. I decided that my perfectionism was due to a lot of uncertainty that I lived with in my childhood. It was like trying to make something that I could control amongst the uncontrollable. I gave it up. I feel good about that.

  4. Really good post which I can identify with, I think my perfectionism sprang from a lack of self esteem. And I have a profession where people talk about having to get things perfect. I once spent 3 days filling holes in a wall before papering it in my dining room - now that's obsessive and insane. So now I ask myself 'Is it good enough?' which helps me keep things in perspective.