Walking a Fine Line — The Perfection Trap

(An excerpt from Walking a Fine Line: Being Professional in the New Age, a book I wrote in the early  90′s that’s been living in my closet.) 

As John Lennon so wisely put it in a song, sometimes “life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”  People tend to forget this every now and then, especially when busy trying to be perfect.
As if our own Western culture was not perfectionistic enough, people who join the Human Potential movement can wind up asking for more.

When people are not only told that they should look, perform, and relate a certain way in mainstream society, but are also held totally responsible for creating (or at least co-creating) their lives, the pressure to be perfect can intensify.  Devoted students of the New Golden Age can sometimes fall into the trap of believing they must think perfect thoughts, feel perfect feelings, make perfect choices, birth perfect babies, breathe perfect breath, and Lord knows what else.

Having to be a constant and perfect role model, even when you are alone with yourself, can be a real pain. 

Being spiritually perfect requires self-monitoring and censorship and can take a lot of valuable time away from what could otherwise be fun and relaxing life moments.  At some point, no matter how skilled you are at writing affirmations, no matter how rightly you choose your life experiences, you are going to have to confront one essential fact.

You are a human being, and there is nothing you can do about it.  Nor is there anything you SHOULD do about it.

I speak on the behalf of all human beings, as well as Virgos like myself dedicated to healing their perplexingly perfectionistic predicaments.


It is OK to make mistakes, OK to be goofy, OK to be chubby, quirky, nerdy, silly, sick, and it is OK to put your foot in your mouth every once in a while.  You are going to do it anyway, so you might as well accept it right from the start.

It seems that people who have experienced a certain degree of success in the alternative ‘spiritual’ world can easily set such high standards of being, thinking and doing for themselves that they feel ashamed and embarrassed when their humanness is exposed.

To avoid this kind of exposure, they learn to hide their humanness, tucking it neatly away beneath plush, positive carpets.  By hiding their humanness in this way, they not only hide themselves, but block any chance they have at improving or healing whatever still seems to need some work.  The price they pay for trying to maintain an image of perfection is their own growth, their capacity to enjoy life, and most of all, their chance to experience true intimacy.

True intimacy requires that people down their masks and let it all hang loose, at least somewhere.  Everyone needs at least one place or one relationship where it is allowed to be spiritually (even politically) incorrect.  This rule works best when applied in relationships between people who share similar values and basic beliefs, between people who can hold the healthiest visions for each other while simultaneously taking a break from them for a while.

If people can experience being loved by another human being — even when they themselves feel most unlovable — they are in pretty good shape.

There’s nothing wrong with using and practicing what you have learned wherever you go.  Not at all.  Most people naturally want to share their new-found jewels with as many people as possible.  I know very few people who do not go a bit overboard at the beginning of their self-development journeys.

You should have seen me in my late teens, during my first encounter with a full-blown New Age training Program.  It is a wonder my family got through it!  There I was, breathing deeply at the dinner table in Skokie, Illinois, energetically telling my grandmother (whose great life passion was to file her feet) that it was safe for her to move into a wonderful future, and that she could trust the ground to support her and her feet to lead her wherever she needed to go.

Ultimately, I’d say something positive and brilliant to her about how the Universe worked.  And then she would just look at me, smile, and say one of her favorite lines like, “Getting older sucks,” and I would sit there with my fresh baked wisdom unheard and unused.  Now that I think of it, I can laugh.  I was a bit over the edge.  But who isn’t over the edge in the beginning of such a new and exciting adventure?

I do not want to diminish the fun which comes from an idealistic time.  All I am saying is that at some point, if you want to have a life where you can breathe easy — in the symbolic sense of the word — you are going to eventually want to create a safe space for your humanness.  And you just may have to make a bit of an extra effort to add a refreshing degree of normalcy in your life.

So if you tend to drag your perfectly polished and positive self with you wherever you go, I invite you to try a change of pace.  Try going to a party and not breathing deeply or affirming everyone you see.  Resist the temptation to help Aunt Mildred see how her favorite self-negating jokes are not helping her development much, even though she might need it.  See how not having to be “on” all the time feels, and notice how everyone survives.

I wholly accept my humanness. 

It is safe and innocent for me to explore and make space for my humanness. 

I am perfect in my imperfection. 

I am totally lovable even when I don’t think so.


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