Some Thoughts on Perfectionism

The following were originally published in Roargasm zine (

Who’s Driving Your Bus? 

Sometimes I think of my life as a bus and the passengers are all the different emotions and archetypes I experience.  Some passengers are noisy and demand attention, some do their own thing and you barely notice them.  And some of them are constantly trying to drive the bus.  For the first 45 years of my life my Perfectionist tried to drive my bus, and often succeeded. Usually, letting my Perfectionist drive caused me to feel like I wasn’t enough.  Go figure, huh?  Today I’m trying to get my Imperfectionist to speak up (the funny thing is, part of me keeps trying to figure out how to be a perfect imperfectionist).

I don’t think the Perfectionist is going to get off the bus, nor do I think it should.  Like all emotions and archetypes, the Perfectionist has strengths and weaknesses. My Perfectionist has helped me accomplish a lot of goals I set and to be fairly successful at whatever I tried.  However, my Perfectionist tends to be a demanding, domineering control freak who always want to drive the bus and when it does, the bus often stays parked for fear of not taking the “right” route.

If your Perfectionist is driving your bus, how can you regain the wheel? First, the Perfectionist needs to be acknowledged.  Then, listen for when the Perfectionist is speaking.  What stories is it telling you?  Maybe, “you’re not good enough,” “you’ll never be better than so-and-so,” “you’ll never be the best, so don’t even try,” and so forth.  The Perfectionist believes everything in life is all-or-nothing. When you hear that either/or message from your Perfectionist, ask yourself if there is a third option, a middle way.  And tell your Perfectionist to sit down, because you are driving your bus from now on.


Conversation with my Perfectionist

Me: Hey Perfectionist, how’s it going?

Perfectionist: Meh. It’s okay, but not perfect.

Me: Very funny.  So, I’m thinking of starting up the guitar again. What do you think?

P: Well, you’ll never be very good, because you just don’t have all the time you’d like to put into practicing.  So, it seems sort of useless.  You’ll probably just fail, like you’ve done 100’s of times.  Face it, you’re not musically inclined.  Just be satisfied with appreciating people who play the guitar well.

Me:  You’re telling me that if I can’t be the best guitarist, then it’s not worth playing?  Why are things always either/or for you, all-or-nothing?

P: Because that’s Life—there’s night and day, destruction and creation, life and death.  And isn’t Life perfect?

Me: Life is full of opposites, but those opposites appear in tandem.  A 24-hour period is both night and day; on the planet both destruction and creation are happening; and Life is a bitter-sweet cycle of both life and death.  I am both selfish and selfless, foolish and wise, insightful and blind.  It takes both to make a whole.

P: So, you’re telling me that to make a whole there needs to be both completion and incompletion, failure and success?

Me:  Looks that way.  I can’t think of much in life that is relegated to either/or.  Life is both/and.  In an isolated moment I can be either hungry or full, happy or sad, healthy or sick, but my life is a collection of moments.  And that collection includes both/and.  It seems to me that Life is perfect because it is inclusive, it has both/and.

P: So, my role in your life is basically useless?

Me: No. There you go seeing through an either/or lens.  You can drive me to work hard at things, but you can also keep me from trying and just enjoying life.

P: I do think enjoying life sounds nice.  It’s exhausting being a perfectionist.

Me: Yeah, I think I’ll work on enjoying learning the guitar, rather than worrying about how good I will or won’t be.






You must be logged in to post a comment