The Perfectionist’s Geulah
Essays 2018 / Finalists
MyLife Essay Contest 2018
The perfectionist produces impeccable work. In school perfectionists excel. At work their aptitude and commitment bring success to their employers. In general life, the perfectionist focuses on details and impressively achieves long-term milestones through careful planning.
Perfectionists also set their own traps. When perfection isn’t realized, disappointment weighs down heavily. When perfection cannot be foreseen, there is no use in making the attempt. The perfectionist is highly susceptible to falling into a rut because of a self-perceived failing. This rut may consist of depression, lack of motivation, unhappiness or low self-esteem.
Through employing chassidic thought and techniques, perfectionists can free themselves from their mental prisons.
This essay contains:
• The Chassidic Toolbox to Free the Perfectionist – definitions of concepts in Chassidus that will be used to help the perfectionist (Contemplation, Yismach Yisroel b’oisav, Bitachon, Simcha poretzes geder)
• Personal Galus and Geulah – Why applying chassidic concepts helps
• Application – practical, real-life “rut” scenarios the perfectionist may experience and their solutions using the Chassidic Toolbox
• Check-up – A worksheet that utilizes the perfectionist’s skills in order to track progress and remain focused on the G-dly plan
The Chassidic Toolbox to Free the Perfectionist
• Every Jew has a chelek Eloka memaal mamoshi(1) – a literal part of Hashem that is inside of him/her. That means that no matter what happens in life – no matter how a person thinks, speaks, or acts – a Jew is always essentially a physical manifestation of Hashem in this world.
o Contemplation can reprogram low self-esteem; rewiring the brain to think positively can help perfectionists loosen the strict expectations they have on themselves. Thinking about how one is literally and essentially a part of Hashem will banish negative impressions an open a path for renewed energy and growth. Being a part of Hashem automatically makes a person worth it.
G-d wants you to try – Yismach Yisroel b’oisavii(2)
• Hashem has tremendous happiness from the efforts we make to serve Him. Hashem chose us, the Jewish people, to make His residence in this world. This selection can be compared to a king who decides to move in with one of his peasants; the immense contrast in lifestyles does not take away from the intense pleasure that both parties receive from the arrangement. Knowing the king wanted to make his abode in your domain would cause a tremendous high, all the more so knowing that the King of kings has made this very decision. Hence, we should be celebrate carrying outHashem’s will.
• Yet, a higher level of happiness is G-d-centered; we are happy because Hashem is happy. The Alter Rebbe, the first leader of the Chabad chassidic dynasty, explains the verse in Tehillim (149:2) “Yismach Yisroel b’oisav (Let Israel rejoice in its Maker)” that the Jewish people should be delighted by Hashem’s great joy in the fact that we have made a home for Him. Hashem derives great
pleasure from the efforts we make to serve Him. He knows that we are not perfect, and therefore does not expect perfection. Hashem desires our work and investment in creating an atmosphere of holiness in the world around us. Hashem sets the true goals for the Jewish people.
o Keeping in mind that Hashem stands by our side and wants us to try our best will take pressure off the perfectionist; Hashem wants our best, not Hashem’s level of perfection. Hashem’s expectations are based on our real abilities and skill sets rather than utopian ones.
Bitachon – Trust
• “Tracht gut, vet zein gut – Think good and it will be good” the Tzemach Tzedek (the third leader of the Chabad dynasty) was famously oft to say.(3) Thinking and believing that Hashem will bestow a person with open and revealed good in life will actually cause it to happen. This potent trust in Hashem achieves results regardless of whether one is “worthy” of Hashem’s blessings or not.
Rather, anyone can decidedly depend on Hashem to provide him/her with physical and spiritual well-being.(4)
o Perfectionists crave affirmation and reinforcement for their efforts. Instead of seeking and becoming dependent on these from others, perfectionists can trust that Hashem will bestow them with the ultimate good, regardless of accomplishment. Knowing Hashem blesses abundantly irrespective of merit frees the perfectionist from the need to fulfill selfestablished quotas; Hashem is not a taskmaster but rather a loving Father.
Simcha poretzes geder – Joy breaks through boundaries
• In his series of discourses entitled Samach Tisamach, the Rebbe Rashab (the fifth leader of the Chabad dynasty) explains that joy has the power to break through boundaries, including those of exile.(5) Through joy, [specifically the joy of a mitzvah], attitudes can shift, physical situations can turn around, and heavenly decrees can be changed for good. Joy tackles a challenge as an allpurpose remedy.
o Consciously arousing a state of joy will combat some of the perfectionist’s core problems. Depression and insecurity will have no hold when faced with strong joy.(6) Instead of being down on him/herself, the perfectionist will have a positive and productive attitude through
an arousal of joy.
Personal Galus and Geulah
Why does the application of chassidic concepts into daily life work to overcome challenges?
Galus is exile. Typically, the global exile of the Jewish people comes to mind with the word galus, the one for which we await the coming of Moshiach and the complete and final redemption. However, galus can also be personal and specific to an individual – whatever holds a person back from making progress in his/her life’s mission. Geulah is redemption: freedom from physical, mental, and emotional limitations.
Now for a surprising Hebrew equation: גולה + א = גאולה .
When you add the letter alef to the word golah (galus), it becomes geulah.
The Rebbe teaches us that the alef represents Alufo shel Olam (Master of the Universe) – Hashem. Through incorporating Hashem and His ways into the exile itself, (be it the global or personal exile), galus becomes geulah. Inviting Hashem’s presence or exposing it where it is hidden will completely change a negative situation into one of positivity and light.(7)
Examining the perfectionist: the perfectionist does not need to be destroyed but rather the perfectionist needs a G-dly alef introduced into his/her conduct. Our Chassidic Toolbox represents this alef, as Chassidus is called “Divrei Elokim Chayim (Words of the Living G-d).” By applying chassidic concepts, the perfectionist’s inborn nature will be transformed, and the perfectionist’s strengths will ensure lasting success.
Let’s take a look at how the concepts from the Chassidic Toolbox can be blended together to release perfectionists from their self-imposed bounds. (Please take note that these tools, along with a vast array of other concepts in Chassidus, may be used in isolation or in countless combinations to achieve personal improvement.)
SCENARIO 1: There is an upcoming essay contest in which the perfectionist takes great interest. But maybe he/she shouldn’t enter; there might not be enough time to answer the prompt to the best and fullest of his/her abilities and what’s the point if the essay won’t win…
➢ Solution: G-d wants you to try. Instead of vacillating between writing and not writing the essay, the perfectionist should just write it! He/she should keep in mind that the process itself is worthwhile and being the best comes secondary to the fruits gleaned from the efforts of simply choosing to,work on the project.
SCENARIO 2: The perfectionist has researched exactly how to make a side table from scratch for the living room. He/she has studied exactly what to buy, the order of how to put the parts together, and how to finish off the project. When it comes to the actual construction, the work hardly goes according to plan, and the first attempt at making a side table is less than perfect, though quite charming. The perfectionist isn’t satisfied with the job, even though the family is ecstatic.
➢ Solution: Simcha poretzes geder. Conjure up that joy! The perfectionist has been trapped into thinking that the only good work is professional work, when really the family is excited by a personal job. The perfectionist should consciously let go of his/her expectations and rejoice in his/her own handiwork. This happiness will erase the gloom of “failure” and highlight the many and multifaceted positive outcomes building the side table has brought about.
SCENARIO 3: The perfectionist reads books and listens all the time to lectures on raising a mentch. But when it comes to practical parenting, the perfectionist has great difficulty in implementing all the techniques he/she has learned at the same time. The perfectionist is starting to wonder if he/she is indeed qualified for the immensely important task.
➢ Solution: Contemplation, Bitachon, G-d wants you to try, Simcha poretzes geder. Firstly, the perfectionist should realize that Hashem specifically chose him/her to raise this child. As Master of the Universe, Hashem knows that the perfectionist is qualified and exactly suited for the job. Next, the perfectionist should trust that Hashem will meet his/her efforts with success. Surely Hashem also wants the child to grow to be a mentch. Hashem wants the perfectionist to try: do the research and toil to constantly grow and improve. Finally, the perfectionist should take a step back and reinfuse the joy into his/her parenting. The happiness itself will likely diffuse many of the difficulties the perfectionist faces with educating the child.
The liberated perfectionist can utilize his/her acute focus and attention to detail to ensure continued success with the follow-up worksheet below.
The Perfectionist’s Geulah
✓ How is my self-esteem? Is G-d the center of my life or is my ego bossing me around? Who am I looking to please?
✓ Am I only worth it if I produce a perfect job? Am I putting realistic expectations on myself? Are my expectations more suited for a tzadik, a robot, or a flesh-and-blood human being?
✓ Do I trust that Hashem will bless me with good no matter what? Do I consciously or unconsciously believe that my physical and spiritual well-being are reliant on how “good I am” at life?
✓ Am I happy? Am I purposely injecting joy into my daily life?
Written by a freed-by-Chassidus perfectionist.
1. Tanya, Chapter 2.
2. Tanya, Chapter 33.
3. Quoted frequently by the Frierdiker Rebbe, see Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, vol. 2, p. 537; vol. 7, p. 197.
4. Likkutei Sichos, vol. 36, pp. 1-6.
5. Sefer Hamaamarim 5657, “Samach Tisamach,” pp. 173 ff.
6. Discussion of the perfectionist’s challenges in MyLife: Chassidus Applied, Episode 197.
7. Sefer Hasichos 5751, vol. 2, Shabbos Parshas Emor, 20 Iyar, pp. 520 ff.