“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~Theodore Roosevelt
You worked your tail off today at the career you’ve been steadily building since college by making all the best connections, taking on all of the right projects, and delivering top notch product. You managed to squeeze in a work-out class before heading home to prepare dinner from fresh, organic ingredients for your family. After reading to your children for exactly 20 minutes, you pick up the house and glance at your planner, reviewing tomorrow’s schedule then jumping into bed to get exactly eight hours of sleep. If only you could have had a few more hours in the day to get the laundry done, to return a few more phone calls, to make sure that you said all the right things to your children…. then life would be…perfect.
Feeling on the verge of being perfect? Welcome to the month of Virgo!
If you feel yourself getting lost in the little things, you’re not alone. Virgo’s energy affects all of us this month. Virgos are organized and have a fantastic eye for detail, making them great surgeons, editors, nutritionists and educators. They are able to zero in on a problem and zero in on a situation that others may overlook—a valuable skill. However, they have a hard time delegating, can’t resist stepping in to “help” when things don’t go as planned, and are quick to judge and tell you what you’re doing wrong. Virgos rarely win any astrological empathy awards.
Virgos are perfectionists but the target of their most critical eye is themselves.
And…ahem…I would know. I’m a Virgo.
I’m no stranger to the quest for perfection. It can look like an obsession with details to the outsider. As Rav Berg says, “their view of the world may become reduced to a grain of sand, when an entire beach should be taken into account.” However, lurking under the need to control events and surroundings lies a deeper need. Perfectionists tend to be overachievers not because they are more savvy, smart, or skilled than the rest, but because their desire to create the illusion of perfection quells their fear of failure. Author and speaker, Brené Brown, eloquently points this out, “Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly, and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.”
No, the perfectionist in you may insist, I simply like things to be done right. Fair enough.
But consider where we’d be now if in 1928 the staff at St. Mary’s Hospital kept everything so tidy that mold wasn’t able to grow on a culture of Staphylococcus aureus for Alexander Flemming to find, leading to the discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics. And can you imagine life without rubber—the accidental discovery, which occurred when Charles Goodyear spilled a mixture of rubber, sulfur, and lead on a hot stove? Or how sad our childhood summers would have been had Frank Epperson never left a drink outside overnight, leading to the invention of popsicles?
All happy accidents that would have thrown the perfectionist into a tailspin before taking a moment to acknowledge the brilliant outcome.
What we stand to lose by insisting on maintaining utter control and perfection are the most beautiful and exciting aspects of life, the happy accidents, and the unplanned blessings that come from mistakes. Life is full them. “The opposite of perfection isn’t imperfection or mediocrity,” says psychologist and author, Tamar Chansky. “It’s reality. It’s possibility. It’s all the magnificent points that exist all around the bull’s eye.”
I am by no means suggesting that we give up our pursuit of excellence. We should always strive to better ourselves and the world around us. But a better world doesn’t mean a perfect world.
We can’t stop surprises or unexpected turns in the road from popping up—things that normally irritate perfectionists. We can’t change our humanness or our fallibility. What we can change is our expectations and our responses to situations and people. By placing less weight on the outcome, we are in no way lowering the bar by which we measure what matters in life. We are simply allowing ourselves to enjoy the spontaneous way in which life unfolds. Or, as I am fond of saying, the process is the purpose.
In Virgo’s pursuit of perfection, the first thing to slip through the cracks is the ability to loosen up, kick off their shoes, and have fun. I make it my goal to be authentic in every moment. What’s more authentic than laughter, mistakes that turn out to be brilliant, getting messy, getting dirty, and leaving the laundry for tomorrow so you can make time to run barefoot through the sand today? And don’t worry about getting stains— the stains are proof you had fun! Like a child covered in chocolate, you don’t fuss over the mess, you simply smile because you can tell how thoroughly they enjoyed themselves.
THOUGHT TO ACTION:
Allow yourself to be imperfect. Find playfulness in everyday activities. Mess up your hair and color outside of the lines.