Retiring the Art of Perfection


Now that I'm embarking on year two of reimagining my life after a 30-plus-year corporate career, I realize that it's time to retire the art of perfection. (Am I ready? Is this the most challenging task I have ever tried to achieve? Yes, yes and yes.)

Being Perfect
This week, I reread Anna Quindlen's book Being Perfect. I had read Anna's essay almost 10 years ago when I was in my mid-40s. At the time, I was at my peak of perfection. I was the perfect mom to my two teenage children. My career was on a perfect executive track. I was a perfect wife to my husband and a perfect breadwinner for my family.

Anna says, "Trying to be perfect may be inevitable for people who are smart and ambitious and interested in the world and its good opinion.… What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself."

Anna says that during her college days at Barnard, a place she describes "populated largely by terrifyingly well-read women who all seemed to be elevating intellectual perfection to a high art" that "eventually being perfect became like carrying a backpack filled with bricks every single day." (Anna, that's exactly how I felt during my college days at Cornell when I was climbing the hills in Ithaca, N.Y. Being a perfectionist, I always felt inferior to the brainiacs throughout my four years at this great Ivy League institution.)

Anna says that "today is the day to put down that backpack before you develop permanent curvature of the spirit." She says perfection is hard, but it's also "too cheap and easy. Because all it really requires of you, mainly, is to read the zeitgeist of wherever and whatever you happen to be and to assume the masks necessary to be the best at whatever the zeitgeist dictates or requires." (Have I let my entire life be driven by the zeitgeist? How can I change? For me, it was always easier to adapt to please others' expectations and demands than to please myself.)

OK, OK, OK. Today, I'm officially declaring that my top goal for my life after 50 is to retire the art of perfection. (But, but, but how am I going to achieve this goal?)

A Clean Slate
Anna says: "Begin with that most frightening of all things, a clean slate. And then look, every day, at the choices you are making, and when you ask yourself why you are making them, find this answer: Because they are what I want, or wish for. Because they reflect who and what I am."

I was looking for a challenge during my second act and now I've found a big one. This goal may take me several years to achieve, but I'm going to accomplish it.

Today, I'm feeling more confident and relaxed as the load on my back lessens and the fears begin to subside.

I want to wear just sunscreen on my face today and no makeup. (Ah, that feels good.)

I want to write a memoir but not sure I want to write it right now. (That's OK. There is a book inside of me. It is my own story and in time it will come out.)

Can I live on a budget that I've set for myself using my savings? (This is the scary part of retiring the art of perfection. I haven't lived without a paycheck for the past 30-plus years. I'm talented. I can do this. If it doesn't work I'll just have to find a way to supplement my savings.)

I'm going to yoga today, tomorrow and whenever I want to go to yoga. I enjoy yoga because it is an hour in the day where I can settle my mind and body. There is no one judging my moves, including myself. (I never had the freedom to practice yoga during the day before. It's a wonderful feeling.)

Anna says, "Much of what we were at five or six is what we wind up wishing we could be at fifty or sixty." (I'm as curious as I was when I was a child. Ready to conquer all the possibilities that lie ahead. Can't wait to see "what's next?")

If you want to join me in the journey of reimagining your life, there is no time like the here and now. Another book I've been reading on the subject is Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities by Richard Leider and Alan Webber. In fact, there's going to be a book club starting July 14 on the Life Reimagined Facebook page and some of my midlife blogger friends and I will be hosting dialogues. I hope you will join us.

So, how are you when it comes to retiring the art of perfection? Or are you not a perfectionist? Let me know what you find helpful on your self journey.

Disclaimer: This post is supported by Life Reimagined: Your guide to rethinking what's possible and seizing your "what's next" in work, relationships, health, personal finance and more. All opinions are my own.

This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.

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