Professional organizer Debbie Jordan Kravitz was a perfectionist through and through.
“I’ve struggled with perfectionism all my life. Between having parents with perfectionistic tendencies and my own people-pleasing and competitive nature, it’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember,” she said.
As a wife and mom of two young kids, her perfectionism seeped into everything, no matter how big or small. She dwelled on her flaws and failures — defined essentially as “anything less than perfect.” But as any perfectionist truly knows, perfectionism is unreachable. It sabotages your self-image, squashes your satisfaction and turns life into a series of disappointments.
In the book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, researcher Brené Brown says that perfectionism is a shield, a self-created safety net that we think will shut out the bad stuff. (It doesn’t.)
“Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame,” Brown writes.
“It was not until I was 35 years old, and my girls were seven and four, that I had an epiphany,” Jordan Kravitz said.
More specifically, she was diagnosed with cancer. At first, though, her perfectionism peaked. “In the early days of my diagnosis and treatment, I used to obsess over what I could have done differently to prevent this life-threatening disease.”
That perfectionistic thinking turned into other troubling thoughts: “My perfectionism got the best of me as I blamed myself for the disease, for putting my young children through such a horrible experience, and for being a burden to my husband.”
To everyone, Jordan Kravitz appeared strong and confident. “For others, I put on the most perfect veil of confidence and heroism I could find the strength to create.” Inside, she felt defeated. “My outlook on the rest of my life was bleak, and the self-pity I felt nearly drowned me in private.”
Eventually, as she said, “by the grace of G-d,” she started facing the reality of her situation: “My very imperfect circumstances and physical state literally stared back at me in the bathroom mirror. I now had two reconstructed, deeply scarred breasts to learn to live with, and I was bald, pale, puffy and exhausted ─ side effects from being injected with the strongest chemo the doctors thought I could handle.”
Whether she liked it or not, she had to rely on loved ones to help with everyday responsibilities, something she would’ve been too proud to do before. But her friends and family couldn’t care less about her so-called imperfections. Little by little, she started accepting herself and her situation.
“I realized that I had two choices. I could drown myself in self-pity and obsess about how imperfect things were, or I could live my life to the fullest and look at life for all that it was…imperfections and all.”
Now, Jordan Kravitz calls herself a recovering perfectionist because overcoming perfectionism is a process. And getting perfectionistic about pitching perfectionism surely defeats the purpose.
Debbie Jordan Kravitz is the author of Everything I Know about Perfectionism I Learned from My Breasts: Secrets and Solutions for Overpowering Perfectionism.