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The Problem With Aiming for 'Perfect' When We Have Limited Mobility

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As the symptoms relating to my chronic illness have degenerated over the years, I find myself feeling like I’m under increasing amounts of pressure. It often feels like it’s coming from all angles, and results in a niggling feeling that I’m always in a rush, I never have enough time, or I’m just not strong enough to do the things I need to do. It’s taken me a long time to accept that a lot of this pressure is actually being put on me by myself.

And let’s be honest, I’m still not altogether at peace with it.

I’ve recently heard the phrase “we are not aiming for perfect” bandied around on advice blogs, and by healthcare professionals in relation to living life with chronic illness and disability. And why not? It’s very good advice. We often hold an ideal standard in our minds when it comes to the way we want to complete a task which can sometimes detract from what the real goal actually is – just completing the task in the first place. It can slow us down, cause unnecessary stress and even put us off trying at all.

Breaking tasks down into manageable chunks is a great way of keeping ourselves moving forward one step at at time, but if you find yourself obsessing over your performance as you tackle each small chunk, it may be time to take a step back.

Today I found myself too tired to break through the thick foil seal on my new bottle of vitamins:

Step 1: I struggled for a bit, finally managing to make a hole big enough to get my finger through.

Step 2: With a bit of wiggling I managed to open the foil up enough to get the vitamins out.

Step 3: I started pulling at the foil, trying to remove it from the top of the bottle where it remained firmly glued in place.

After a couple of attempts where my weak fingers failed to separate the foil from the glue, I took a slight pause. As the perfectionist in me was gathering herself to carry on struggling without getting frustrated, from somewhere else entirely, that phrase came back to me, “We’re not aiming for perfect.”

I sat and looked at the bottle and asked myself why it needed to be neat and tidy. Who actually cares in this situation, and where is this pressure for things to be perfect coming from? Well, I want it to be neat and tidy, because I like a job to be all wrapped up and complete.

But let’s re-examine the steps. What was the goal? Getting vitamins out of a bottle. At what point did we get vitamins out of the bottle? Step two. Wrapped up. Complete.

Is anyone else going to care if I remove the messy bits of foil from my bottle of vitamins? No. Do I want it to look neat? Yes. Do I want it to look neat more than I want to save that little bit of precious energy? Absolutely not.

Taking that step back and reassessing what is more important to us could mean the difference between a good day and a bad day, so when you’re breaking up tasks, remember to keep that perspective. Ask yourself where that pressure to perform is coming from and if what you’re asking yourself to do is really necessary in the grand scheme of things.

The bottle sits in front of me on my desk, and every time I remove the lid I will see that messy job I did. The difference now is that I may feel a small amount of pride at completing a task I found challenging when I was at my weakest.

While the energy I saved from this simple action may seem inconceivably small, it’s a step towards applying this attitude across other areas of my life.

So what did you not do today to save yourself some time or precious energy? What could you not do tomorrow to cut yourself a little slack, and be a bit kinder to yourself?

Getty Image by Cofeee

Originally published: July 12, 2018
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