Perfection is a Fibro Enemy

Perfection is a Fibro Enemy

Christine Tender Points

In her book Daring Greatly, my favorite author, Brené Brown, quotes a line from Andrea Scher’s blog that reads, “Perfection is the enemy of done.” I haven’t been able to forget those words. The truth of them just smacks me in the head.

When I no longer could work, I felt obligated to do many of the things I didn’t have time to do when I was working – and to do them perfectly. I attempted to keep a perfectly spotless home (I wasn’t satisfied until every surface was cleaned and polished like a mirror). To prepare perfect meals for guests (I was known for my Italian specialties full of gluten that I can no longer eat). And to be the perfect friend (neither snow nor sleet nor dark of night kept me from the drug store to medicate an ailing comrade).

The result was perfectly awful! I experienced an increase in my pain level, greater fatigue and the onset of additional symptoms that remain with me until today. Instead of perfection, all that struggling resulted in days in bed. A better idea would have been to settle for a little dust, to get take-out food for visitors and to ask someone else to make runs to the the drug store.

The question then became: If I can’t have the perfection I once aspired to, what can I now do instead? With a limited budget, the answer to this question can be challenging. If you can’t do it yourself, and you can’t afford to have it done, you have few options. Compromise is inevitable. Acceptance is even more difficult to attain.

Friends once commented on my immaculate ivory carpeting with the visible Hoover tracks. Although I left carpeting behind when I moved across the country, my cleanliness standards came with me. It has taken me years to accept a layer of dust coating everything in my house. This morning, I left myself a reminder, writing with my finger in the dust of my dining room table. I’d say this is one area I’ve conquered!

I once was known as a counter wiper. You’ve met these women, I’m sure. There wasn’t a speck or a streak on any surface in my kitchen — ever — including the stove. These days, I consider it an achievement if I put the dishes in the dishwasher after a meal. I’ve learned to consider crumbs as part of the décor. And meals aren’t what they used to be, either. Until recently, I’d always made my own spaghetti sauce in large batches and frozen the leftovers. Now I buy sauce in a jar – as the rest of the world does. Do I like it? Not very much. But the alternative is to use an entire day’s energy standing at the stove, stirring. Prego is definitely preferable.

I had never bought grated cheese to put on top of spaghetti. I always bought a block of Romano and grated it fresh for each meal. These days, the Italian deli grinds it for me, a pound at a time. I’d like to say that my extra effort for perfect freshness was worth it all those years, but this is one instance when I can honestly say that it was not!

I refuse to believe I’ve lowered my standards. I’d rather think of it as having overcome my need for perfection (at least in some areas). I’m still working on many others. During my career in aerospace, a frequently heard expression was “close enough for government work.” In other words, it was acceptable. My new mantra is more like, “It’s fine for fibromyalgia.” This means although it’s not perfect, it’s as good as fibromyalgia allows it to be.


Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.


  1. Rita Cooney says:

    Excellent article! It has made me stop and think about how my expectations of myself can hurt me. It is very hard for us to give up what we took pride in (and for granted) before Fibromyalgia took hold. Thanks for your insight.

  2. Bonnie says:

    Love Love Love your honesty. Yep, to slowly give up the perfectionist in us FM warriors is hard and every little milestone helps. Well said my friend and even gave me a smile this a.m. Keep on keeping on….

  3. This is a great article. .now I don’t feel so terribly guilty thatI don’t get my housework done as often or as regular as I use to since having Fibromyalgia. .I do it now in stages and when I feel pain free!

  4. Denise Bault says:

    Great article! I, too, was a perfectionist. Now I go by the mantra that “doing something half-assed is better than not doing it at all!” I learned that from a dear friend. 🙂 I use what energy I have to either do what makes me feel better or makes my life with fibromyalia more manageable. After all, the dust isn’t going anywhere!

  5. Jennifer stonier says:

    Thank you Christine Lynch. My self expectations, and resulting guilt and reproach from not feeling well enough to accomplish what I think I “should” are especially high during the holidays. This frustration leads to stress which leads to more pain and fatigue. Thank you for reminding me to turn my “not good enough” to “it’s ok and I’m still good even if it’s not all done.”

  6. Lenore Arbaugh says:

    Thank you for this article! Now I know it is not just me struggling with reconciling past with the present! Very wonderfully encouraging!

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