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Perfectionism Kills Presence

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the looming pressure of time. We are constantly in a state of worry, trying to make things happen faster and “better”. But this makes us cut precious moments short and take shortcuts for things that we may have experienced more joy from the long way around. We are in the business of prioritizing efficiency and output over process and experience.

Why walk for fifteen minutes if the bus takes 9?

Why go to the store when Amazon can deliver it tomorrow?

Why make spaghetti sauce when they sell it by the jar?

Why drive to grandma’s when you can say it in a phone call? An email? A text message?

This desire for efficiency comes from the anxiety that we do not have enough time to spare and the fear that our time could be better spent. And this can creep into our time with loved ones if we’re not careful.

When we adapt a scarcity mindset surrounding our time, we tend to either completely disregard valuable time with others or (and this is where perfectionism becomes a dangerous addition) we put too much pressure on the moment to be spectacular, since we don’t know when we’ll be able to squeeze it into our schedule again.

If you take any lesson away from this website, it’s that setting perfection as your default expectation will always, ALWAYS lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction.

This week, I found myself reverting to perfectionist tendencies of control that, ultimately, set me up for disappointment on multiple occasions. I had finally worked out a time for dinner with my nana and uncle, and because it had taken so many tries, I had a very particular vision for how it would go and how it would make me feel.

Only, the 4pm dinner turned into a 6pm dinner, which turned into 7pm, which turned into cold baked potatoes, and then turned into my uncle no longer hungry. As the time kept getting pushed back, I felt myself getting irritated that the plans were being “ruined” and got increasingly frustrated at the lack of schedule, only to realize that the only thing “ruining” the plans was my sour reaction to it not going the way I’d pictured. My nana kept offering me snacks to tie me over as the time kept being pushed back and (although it probably would’ve eased my hangry state) I stubbornly refused because I had a very particular idea of how dinner was “supposed” to go.

Because I was looking ahead, trying to plan and predict how the evening would go, I lost sight of what joys were occurring in the presence.

This happens, too, when we are enjoying time with someone so much that we start to dread its inevitable end or if we fixate on how something is going while we are doing it.

You probably have a much better time talking to someone (and they probably do as well) when you’re not worried about saying the “right” thing or predicting the next topic. Alas, the cliché “just be yourself” motto has never rung truer.

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