Because I declared this the year of self care, I’ve been looking into a lot of resources to help me along. One of the things I found was a book, The Artist’s Way, by American author Julia Cameron. The book contains ideas to help open the channels to creativity using spirituality. The author bases the whole book on the motto “Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift to God.”
I find this idea simple and profound at the same time, and decided to post it somewhere that I could remind myself each day. It is hanging above my desk at work where I can contemplate it as I plan curricula and grade papers. I find tremendous comfort and strength in it, and have come to relying on its simple power.
One of the most powerful chapters in the book is on self-care. In it, Cameron talks about perfectionism, and how that is commonly a block to creativity and risk-taking. I began thinking about this and how it applies to other areas in my world. Before reading this chapter, I never considered just how far-reaching this idea extends into my daily life.
Certainly we have all had our moments of perfectionism. But for those of us who experience it daily, it becomes second nature to us, and we may not even be aware of how much it prevents us from taking risks.
One of the biggest areas of life that requires taking risks is dating, particularly online. Of course it doesn’t take much to click on a profile, but what happens as we read one and begin to think, “this will never do. I can’t tolerate (whatever) in a potential partner.” Is that us having reasonable standards? Or is our perfectionist side preventing us from taking the risk of making contact? Is the one or two undesirables in a profile enough to stop us from sending an emotigram?
I often go back to the standards of the woman I love to hate, The Millionaire Matchmaker’s Patti Stanger. There are a lot of things I don’t like about her, but I will not deny that she’s got some good advice. Case in point: perfectionism. She encounters it regularly with her clients, both women and men. It is easy to see how perfectionists could excel in their professional life, bringing them fabulous wealth and recognition, but it’s another thing to see it in their social life.
In her matchmaking process, Stanger breaks the perfectionist in her millionaires with tough love: she will will often do it by having her clients change their appearance or manners that display them as less-than-perfect. She also matches them with someone who is not their physical type, but who has all the other desired traits. More often than not, her method works. Many of the millionaires express gratitude that she got them outside of their limited thinking.
Regarding the difference between having standards and being a perfectionist, she suggests matches select three non-negotiables. Often, they are desire for children, similar income and living arrangements. This makes a lot of sense on Stanger’s show: many of the millionaires do not want to be with anyone who makes significantly less than they do. In any case, her point is that if you find someone who has the same standard of non-negotiables, anything beyond that is perfectionism, and a willful refusal to take a risk.
After some close self-reflection, I see how little perfectionism benefited me in the past. It prevented me from moving forward in my career, choosing interesting places to live, making new friends and having challenging, life-affirming relationships. I am lucky enough to have let it go before meeting the love of my life, and I’m convinced I never would have if I still existed in my own perfectionism.
So in the world of online dating, perfectionism is akin to window shopping. We end up always looking, often criticizing, and never engaging. Here we can see the damage perfectionism does when we are looking for love. If we’ve paid for our membership and took the risk of joining an online dating site like CatholicMatch, why stop there? Finding love online requires risk taking. It is no place to showcase perfectionism. Having standards that are too high will not benefit us in any way.
My challenge to Catholic singles online: ask yourself, is perfectionism the reason you are passing up compatible matches? Notice how much the search for perfection prevents you from taking risks. Who knows where those risks will lead? One need only look at a few of the CatholicMatch member stories to see that any relationship worth having is one where risks were necessary.