I grew up in a home where everything was perfect. Everything had to be done right the first time or else I would be in BIG TROUBLE!
Do you ever wonder what that does to a child as they get older? It paralyzed me. I felt constantly worried about doing something wrong. I didn’t want to try new things. I was stuck, unhappy and full of what-ifs.
My name is Walter Hrycaj and I am a perfectionist.
I always knew I was somewhat compulsive about things. Everything had to be straight up or down and in its place—my hair had to be exactly the same length, my shoelaces had to lay flat against the tongue of my shoes, and when I showered every body part had to be scrubbed several times before I felt clean.
It was devastating to have my routine broken in any way. Everyone in my environment needed to live by my rules and my routine, or I would get angry. I think structure is good, however, this was excessively compulsive and I knew it. By the time I was 23 I was ready to change. I began taking classes at the School of Metaphysics.
I started with small steps. Instead of holding my coffee cup in my right hand, I switched to my left hand. I let my hair grow out and wore different clothes. This helped when I was by myself, however, the biggest challenge was interacting with other people.
Is he a blessing or a curse?
Nicholas pushed all my perfectionist buttons. We first met in 2003 in Indianapolis, IN. We continued to come in and out of each other’s lives for approximately eight years. Nicholas tested me in so many ways. One example was when he told me to toss my three-piece suit in the back of his half-ton truck on a trip from Louisville, KY to Chicago, IL. Granted, it had a topper on it. It was also filled with paint supplies that he used as a freelance painter. To his credit he did offer me a big scrap of cardboard. At this time I recognized my perfectionist pattern emerging and I really didn’t want to put my suit in the back of his truck. I decided to release and let go of anything happening to the suit and placed it on the cardboard in the back of his paint can-filled truck and began to enjoy the ride to Chicago.
Nicholas was a blessing in that moment. He came into my life to help me break free of my restrictions. He helped me learn to go with the flow! In the end we made it to Chicago and my suit was perfectly fine.
Rather than attachment to perfection, I learned to change.
If Nicholas had not crossed my path, would I still be the same? I don’t think it was a mistake that we met. I often ask myself, “What would Nicholas do?” and my mind opens to possibilities.
The feeling of being in trouble.
Mistakes, do we ever stop making them? Do they only exist in our own consciousness? Are we hardwired to believe that some things are mistakes and other things are not? Who is the judge of that? Does God ever make mistakes?
One day, I was making perfect rows to plant beet seeds in the garden at the College of Metaphysics. I was concerned about spacing and depth, and making it perfect. Imagine my surprise when our teacher, Dr. Daniel walked right through the middle of the rows and threw seeds everywhere. I stood in shock as I took in the scene. I felt angry although neither of us had done anything wrong. I thought, “How could he do such a thing! I spent all this time making the rows perfect and getting all the minor details right. AAAAAHHHHHH!!!”
Eventually the seeds sprouted and the plants grew. Obviously the beets were happy to grow anywhere. So much for my perfect rows! It was OK.
One time, while weeding the same garden, I accidentally pulled up a beet. I thought, “OH MY GOD!” and for a moment I felt fear, worry and paralysis arising. This got my attention. I relaxed and tried to see things differently. I realized this was not a big deal. I put it right back into the dirt. Plants are forgiving. Over time in the garden, I made lots of mistakes. I pulled up plants, stepped on plants and even killed some. I could never eliminate the feeling that I was doing something wrong, even though I knew that I could choose to feel something different. Would I ever be free of making a mistake?
Maybe instead of feeling angry, irritated or frustrated I could laugh and feel joy, because I have another opportunity to learn, to understand and to evolve. It’s going to take practice and discipline to completely change how I think and feel about making mistakes.
Repeated experiences like this were helpful to wake up to a different perspective.
We may not have control of our environment or how other people react or respond in life. We always have a choice about how we react or respond to it.
The mistake that benefits everyone.
I’ve been practicing consciously responding rather than reacting for approximately 16 years. Recently I began an apprenticeship as a printer. I’m learning how to use an offset printer. This is a relic of a machine and a lost art in society today. I’m really good at steps and I love learning how to use this machine. Yet at times, I would get anxious that I might damage something or do something wrong. What if I make a mistake?
Then, my worst fear happened. I made a huge mistake (in my mind anyways). I printed about 300 copies backwards (common mistake for anyone learning how to use this type of printer) and wasted a ton of paper and ink. I thought, “What will my mentor think now? I’m a failure. I’ll never be able to print again.” The thoughts of failure and feeling paralyzed showed up again. However, in the moment I made a different choice. I stopped, took a deep breath and laughed.
I laughed, because I created this happening. I manifested the mistake I didn’t want. This was funny to me, yet I knew I did it to myself. I talked to my mentor about this and as soon as I did, I felt relief. He told me that the paper could be used as scrap. He also taught me a simple method to make sure I would print the pages correctly next time. Learning something new and making mistakes had its benefits. It was a win-win for everyone!
I realized that I didn’t have to be perfect while being in infancy with something, nor do I have to be perfect when I’m in wisdom with something. All I need to do is be me, relax, and be willing to learn and to enjoy the process.
Sometimes the joy of trying something new, meeting people who are different from us, or just being afraid of making a mistake can seem terrifying when we get locked into a particular way of being or thinking. When we open our minds to how things can benefit us as well as others (seeing the good in the situation), we can begin to make small steps towards healing any “mistake” that may seem to cause great pain and difficulty.
Anyone can transcend challenges by staying open to new and different experiences. All it takes is the will to persist in any endeavour and be OK with trying new things. You never know, you might just discover something new about yourself!