Recently I had an unsuccessful run at becoming a city councillor. While those who know me applauded my willingness to bring a new perspective to city hall, a combination of several factors prevented a successful outcome.
The more obvious reasons certainly included a lack of funds, our lack of preparation for the sudden election, combined with the poor voter turn-out (10%). Also, the election occurred during one of my busiest months; I was very tired.
While all of the above had a significant impact on the outcome, there was one more factor at play: my approach.
I was operating under the illusion that the person who had the best experience and the best policies would win. I received many heart-touching words from supporters. My campaign website had a very comprehensive policy platform and great pictures. My vision of a sustainable city that would lower costs for its residents, businesses and non-profits was, I thought, perfect!
This conviction was my undoing. In my belief that I was the best candidate, I blundered into an old trap: perfectionism.
What happens when a “wanna-be” perfectionist is placed in front of cameras, groups of people, and numerous questions being thrown at me, for which I was not prepared?
Answer: perfection ceases! I lost focus, lost some of my ability to listen and relate to people, and failed to truly be present with myself, others, and the situation. Fear crept in, and what I truly had to offer went into hiding. All the best policies in the world could not save me from my fear of not performing well enough, of not being successful, accepted, appreciated, etc.
Of course it is not possible to be perfect, as a parent, a spouse/partner, an employee, a boss, a mentor, nor a student or candidate! Our self-protecting fear knows this and watches for signs of being found out!
This fear is also what gets in the way of true intimacy in relationships, for it fears rejection, inadequacy, judgement and more. Contrary to a popular belief, perfect people are not lovable.
Had I not fallen into this trap of trying to be perfect, I would have been better able to be present with people in the all candidate’s meeting, to have better spoken to what they were experiencing rather than talk about perfect policies. I could have been more human, something that others can truly relate to. And I could have relaxed, allowing my humour to add a needed dimension to the seriousness of such an event.
Since perfectionism is not possible, nor desirable, what is possible and helpful? To be the best we can be, with our strengths and weaknesses all intact. As a result, we are then open to be touched by others, open to friendships and relationships, eager to really hear others, striving to be the best we can be–without being perfect.
I now freshly realize that this is the way to be “successful” and lead a “joy-full” life.
Ian Gartshore is a local energy advisor, therapist, and emerging human being.