Fighting Perfectionism in Paganism

A friend of mine posted this blog this morning about the mommy wars.  To sum up, the author points out that feelings of inadequacy tend to prompt tired, stressed moms to lash out against each other over trivial differences in lifestyle and parenting. She then goes on to lead with her Christian faith, reminding that Jesus accepts her as she is and loves her even when she is imperfect, and that she can walk away from the mommy wars with that strength behind her.

It got me thinking.  Christians do have that default of “Jesus loves me” no matter what.  In this, they find forgiveness for mistakes and acceptance of imperfection.  In fact, sometimes it seems that Christianity revels in humanity’s imperfection, always stressing that only God and Jesus are perfect.  I can see how this is a very helpful belief to have in daily life, a very useful belief for fighting perfectionism and feelings of failure.

What do we have? Christians certainly don’t have a lock on being perfectionists.  How many of us feel the need for the perfect spell, the perfect ritual, the perfect and complete knowledge of All The Magickal Things?  How many of us have allowed our spiritual practice to fall by the roadside, victim of our perfectionism, our feelings that if we can’t do it “right” all the time, we just shouldn’t bother? How many of us are actually afraid to attend festivals or public rituals, much less give our own workshops and perform our own rituals, afraid that we’re not doing it “right”, that our contribution is worthless if it doesn’t measure up to some standard?

How many of us are afraid that we will ruin our children if we don’t raise them absolutely right, spiritually or otherwise?

How do you fight your perfectionism within the framework of your pagan spirituality?

Published by solinox

I am a Wiccan priestess, a libertarian mother of triplets plus three, a wife and homeschooling mom to blind and autistic children, a fiber artist, and a Jane of All Trades, always learning and seeking to help.

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  1. I think that there is just as much variability among Pagans as there is among Christians. We have our perfectionists, and we have those who are, for lack of a better word, sloppy.
    I think that what we should all strive for, rather than perfection, is excellence. A ritual or a spell needn’t be “perfect” to be excellent.
    A thing that is excellent, is one which has achieved its intended result. Were people moved by ritual? It was an excellent ritual! Did your spell have its intended result? Then it was an excellent spell. It doesn’t matter if it was simple or complicated. It doesn’t matter if you had to substitute plastic cups for crystal chalices. It doesn’t matter if you forgot your athame and used a stick. What matters is the results.
    The only real place for perfection is in ceremonial magick.

  2. The way I fight perfectionism anywhere I encounter it is by bringing a focus on quantity instead of quality. Set a ridiculous goal and push yourself to reach it. In studio classes our prof would ask for 100 collages, I’m not joking. You’d never produce that many but you try. You stop caring about every little thing and just get it together, then when you’re done you can look back and see what effect all the decisions had and you learn that there is no “perfection”, just a series of trade-offs based on your personal priorities. If you can set your priorities properly in your own head decisions become easy and you know that every step is in the right direction for you. How do you apply this to ritual? I have no idea.

  3. I just do it. I learned a long time ago that secretly, everyone is still the same inside that they were when they were a child. That is to say, we are all still learning, all still that kid with the glassy eyes at cool stuff, the sleepy one when disinterested, and the snippy one when pressed. So in other words, no worries for me, I just do the workshop, go back outside the room after, and find a cookie. If I changed lives for the better, I get a sticker from the universe. If not, then I just regroup at recess and face a new day. Perfectionism is just sticker chasing, after all.

    1. I realized belatedly that I left the post just talking about ritual and such. (Because I was rushed, and I made an imperfect post!) How about perfectionism in your everyday lives? Whether in patenting or somewhere else, where have you compared yourself to others, and how did your spiritual practice help you overcome that?

  4. Having a child who is questioning and wanting to participate in prayers and rituals I do has been an interesting learning experience for me in terms of “right” ways and “wrong” ways to practice paganism. My constant refrain to her is, “You don’t have to do it the way I do…just do what feels right to you.” I believe in personal revelation and, if I believe in that, then the only “wrong” thing I could possibly do is to not listen to my instincts (and, as a consummate perfectionist in every aspect of my life, I can say that this belief helps me tremendously!).

  5. Mommy wars is waaaaay too familiar a term to me. Especially nowadays as the “traditional” Mom role in our home is filled by Dad!
    I’ve seen a lot of what the author talks about in her blog. People too nervous to call a quarter, let alone perform a ritual.
    We’ve also seen a lot of the “more-Pagan-than-thou” attitudes. It’s almost like teenagers trying to out bad-ass each other. A shame because we can learn so much from each other and the differences of practice!
    Perfectionism in daily life is a struggle for me. I’m a natural type-A and have to remember to dial back my expectations of myself and other people. That’s a lot harder than it sounds! I think my spiritual practice has helped with that somewhat. I’ve had too many experiences when I expected a lot out of people and was sorely disappointed. I’ve worked at expecting a mid-point and being overjoyed when the goal has been reached and sometimes overshot. I try not to compare myself to other people, which is very hard as I have bouts of horribly low self-esteem. I have a partner to help me pull myself out of that funk.

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