Many years ago, I spent some time studying Thomas Aquinas. He was a Dominican friar, who taught for a while in Paris in the mid 13th century. Aquinas’ teachings came to mind when I was with a young friend who was being especially hard on himself because he’d made a ‘stupid mistake’.
Aquinas was interested in angels. For him, angels have the quality of being perfect and unique, knowing everything all at once. Angels, unlike humans, have no learning curve; they don’t make mistakes.
When my young friend made a mistake, in a way he forgot he wasn’t like that angel. Humans only learn by making mistakes. In this way, there are no stupid mistakes.
Angels aren’t humans and humans aren’t angels. I can still recall when it hit me how different I was to Aquinas’ idea of an angel. It was quite a while before it sunk in that being perfect wasn’t a worthy goal for me, and that getting better was.
I hope my friend learns that sooner than I did.
Quote of the Week
“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”
― Brené Brown
Our dangerous obsession with perfectionism
Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .