In Japan, They Fill the Cracks of Broken Pottery with Gold

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“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life…. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Perfectionism Is Rooted in Fear

I have written several posts about the fear that prevents artists and writers from moving forward and getting their work done–from just doing it. That fear is the ugly stepchild of Perfectionism, which I believe is the scourge of life. Anne Lamott sums up the problems of perfectionism beautifully. In the above quote, she was talking about how perfectionism ties the writer in knots, fills him with fear and prevents him from writing.

“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” ― Michael Law

I believe that perfectionism raises its ugly head in everything that we do, and it encourages us to toss things and people away who do not measure up to some ethereal ideal.

In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown offers us some golden nougats about perfectionism. The title of the book echoes the Asian philosophy that brokenness and that its scars do not have to be ugly.

Perfectionists Are Control Freaks

The first challenge in monitoring perfectionism is letting go of the need to control. Things crack or they get scratched or the dog gets old and wets on them.It is absolutely impossbile to control everything all of the time. Accept that things will get cracked. We cannot prevent that from happening. We are merely left with the challenge of how we will perceive the cracked thing and what we will do with it afterwards.

Perfectionism Is Driven by Shame

I know people who are driven by the need to be perfect. In fact, for a long time, I was also plagued with that disease. In my own experience, the need for perfection is also driven by shame.

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Because he or she works so darned hard to fool everyone around himself or herself, the perfectionist often seems to be perfect. He or she will look good. He or she will often be successful in his or her work. He or she will seem to have it all. Because no one can ever have it all, however, the perfectionist’s cup is never filled. He or she will always want more, but the race to be perfect is run on a slippery slope. For starters, no one knows exactly what perfection is. Ellen Hopkins shines a beacon on that problem below:

PERFECT
by Ellen Hopkins

WHY

push to attain an ideal state of being that no two random people will agree is

WHERE

you want to be? Faultless. Finished. Incomparable. People can never be these, and anyway,

WHEN

did creating a flawless facade become a more vital goal than learning to love the person

WHO

lives inside your skin? The outside belongs to others. Only you should decide for you –

WHAT

is perfect.”

Mask, Venice, Carnival, Italy, Fun, St Mark'S

Perfectionists Wear Masks

Again, the perfectionist will probably appear to be perfect; he or she will appear to have absolute self-confidence, but in reality, he or she is a mask wearer, and the perfectionist is not what he  or she seems. Perfectionists spend an inordinate amount of time looking around, trying to decide what and who are NOT offensive.

“Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve?” Perfectionism is other-focused: “What will they think?”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Because perfectionists are always looking at others to find the best masks for themselves, they cease to look within. In most cases, the perfectionist doesn’t model himself after a healthy person. He or she envies the people who seem to be perfect to them–they look at other perfectionistic mask wearers. Everything becomes superficial–shells of people model themselves after other shells of people. In no time at all, the mask wearer loses sight of what is real–of what is authentic.

 “Opinion’s but a fool, that makes us scan the outward habit by the inward man.”
― William Shakespeare, Pericles

Wanting to succeed is not a bad thing, but too much of anything becomes toxic.

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

In our world of glossy magazines and Photoshop, the media rarely allows us to see the real. It becomes easy to be hypnotized by fakeness.

“It’s in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and photoshopped world very dangerous.”
― Brené Brown

Perfectionists Are in Denial

After years of wearing masks and striving to become someone that they are not, perfectionists often forget who they actually are. The perfectionist’s denial often begins because he WANTS to forget who he is and ultimately, Voila! He isn’t who he is. The real problem with this situation is that because the perfectionist is a shell who modeled himself after another shell, he or she isn’t who he isn’t either.

Perfectionists Tend to Become Narcissists

When the perfectionist has truly mastered his game, he has the tendency to become a full-blown narcissist, and that is a tragedy. Read my post A Narcissist May Be the Most Evil Person You Know Here

Narcissists reach the point that they do not care about anyone but themselves. They are hardened, unempathetic people who will run over anyone in their way, and they will throw people away like they are table scraps.

Perfectionists Cannot Tolerate Process–
They Demand a Finished and Perfect Product

The other day, I wrote a post and discussed the concept of process, as opposed to product. One of the saddest things about the perfectionist is that he or she cannot tolerate process. Process is messy and it searches in dark corners. Process involves making mistakes and trying to fix them–of living with the cracks along the way.

“Perfectionism doesn’t believe in practice shots. It doesn’t believe in improvement. Perfectionism has never heard that anything worth doing is worth doing badly–and that if we allow ourselves to do something badly we might in time become quite good at it. Perfectionism measures our beginner’s work against the finished work of masters. Perfectionism thrives on comparison and competition. It doesn’t know how to say, “Good try,” or “Job well done.” The critic does not believe in creative glee–or any glee at all, for that matter. No, perfectionism is a serious matter.”
― Julia Cameron, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance

Let’s return to the cracked piece of pottery. A perfectionist would throw the cracked pottery away, but in Japan, they fill the cracks with gold and marvel at the beauty of its scars.

Almost a half a century ago, I was in a terrible car accident, and my entire body was scarred. Before that, I had been a perfectionist. Before my accident, I could still find a big enough mask to hide my flaws. But after my entire body was scarred, I found that there were not enough masks to camouflage all of my imperfections. For a while after that, I continued to chase perfection but eventually, I simply stopped chasing.

Many who look at me now only see the scars on my body–my cracks. Over the years, many have even tossed me and my cracks away, but I have realized that I cannot control what others do about my imperfections. That is a choice that only they can make.

It might seem that this post is merely for those of use who are physically disfigured–who have been in car wrecks or something like that, but it is not. Living itself is a train wreck. All of us are scarred. All of us are imperfect.

My only choice is what I will do with my imperfections, and that is your only choice, too. For the past few years, I have begun the process of filling my cracks with positive things. I am writing more and more and I am allowing myself to simply be who I am. Instead of continuing to chase a perfection that isn’t even there, I am filling my cracks with something that is real, and I am waiting for the polishing cloth of life to burnish my scars and turn them into gold.

After I had already posted this, I remembered that many years ago, I said that when I die, I want Dolly Parton to sing the following song for me. I’m just reminding everyone.

It does seem that life is harder on some of us than others. I do have a lot of scars. Many peoples’ scars make mine look like eyelashes. I don’t even pretend to know why some people are knocked down more than others. Perhaps We WILL Understand It A-By and By.

©Jacki Kellum May 1, 2016

 

Scars

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8 thoughts on “In Japan, They Fill the Cracks of Broken Pottery with Gold

    1. I saw Linda Ronstadt in concert about 20 years ago. All 3 of these gals are extraordinary. What is going on with Linda Ronstadt?

      Like

      1. She has Parkinson’s Disease…She no longer sings and now has problems completing simple tasks. I saw a wonderful interview with her where she talks about her career and her disease…Very upbeat. She is a remarkable singer and a remarkable lady. I’m going to try to find the interview…Trying to think where it would be… Judy

        Liked by 1 person

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