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The Difference Between Simplicity and Perfectionism

“Simple” and “perfect” are sometimes used interchangeably. But they are two totally different things. “Perfect” refers to something that must not be messed up. It is static. “Simple” is more user friendly, and dynamic. It encourages people to join in. It’s simple, you can do it. “Perfect” tells people to back off, and stay away. “Simple” says come in and stay awhile.  “Perfect” says look around and be impressed, and then leave, please.

Very often, when we build structures for our various systems – marriage, family, well-being, home — we judge the outcome by how “perfect” it is.  Do we have the perfect marriage, home, body, and career? If not, we need to keep striving. Keep working. Keep trying to be good enough. What we don’t realize is that perfectionism is causing us to have unnecessary anxiety and stress, and is wearing us down. It makes us impossible to be around. No one can live up to our perfect standards. The other side of perfectionism is simply opting out. The hoarder and the obsessive cleaner are both tortured by perfectionism. They are simply two different responses to the same thing.  One person strives and strives and the other says I can’t achieve it so I won’t even try. I give up. Both people are in the same difficult position of not being “good enough”.

We have all been affected in some way by perfectionism. How do we fight this tendency? The answer is in treating ourselves kindly. Are we being kind to ourselves when we hoard, and have to lie on a corner of the bed because the rest of the bed is taken up with “valuable” objects? Are we being kind to ourselves when we can’t relax with our loved ones as long as there is one cleaning job left to be done? No. If we simply decide to be kind to ourselves, we will find our way out. We will learn what being kind to ourselves looks like.

We can start by replacing perfectionism with simplicity. Simplicity works in any and all circumstances. You can usually tell simplicity is present when a system is functional and efficient. Have you ever seen a picture of an all white house? Aaaaaaah. Soooo lovely. Let’s find out if it’s functional and efficient though. Well, first of all, in order for everything to be white, you’d have to buy all new china, canisters, plant pots, trays…hmmm…starting to get a bit complicated. How would I feel if someone left the ketchup bottle on the kitchen counter? If I would simply have to crawl over to it after my knee replacement and get it out of my sight to avoid a nervous breakdown – that’s not simple. Can’t live with perfect. I can live with simple. And I can live with simple under any and all circumstances.

Perfectionism and simplicity have two totally different sets of rules, and two different outcomes. Simplicity leads us to peace and enjoyment. Perfectionism leads to divorce and disease. Be kind to yourself and choose a simple life.