I sometimes call myself a recovering perfectionist – deleting the desire to be perfect at everything. I’m no longer interested in best or perfect. They’re boring! Best and perfect have no life, no humanity, no room to grow. They are soullessly complete. I’ve heard that Japanese crafters create imperfections in their work to add interest and beauty.
Perfect stops many of us from trying. We can’t do it perfectly, so why bother trying. When you achieve perfection there’s nowhere to go, so why bother. Perfect intimidates us, demotivates us, depresses us.
Which is why good enough is our friend. Good enough is sometimes the right answer. It’s always the right answer for some things. If you’re tired and busy, a dinner of toast with peanut butter and apple slices is good enough. If you’re overwhelmed with work, childcare and commuting, 5 minutes of stretching is a good enough workout.
I don’t aspire to be a great singer so my breathy warbling is good enough. Singing makes me happy and that’s what’s important. Although being great would be nice, I’m not willing to put in the time and effort. Which is not say singing well isn’t important. It’s vitally important – to some people. Just not me. For me, good enough is good enough.
Teaching, on the other hand – now that’s important! I put tons of time and energy into creating great curriculum and delivering it well. It’s an area where I’m willing to push myself, continuously learning and improving. It’s important to me so challenging myself makes me happy.
But I don’t demand perfection. Failure is part of life and it’s part of learning. If I’m not willing to fail (sometimes very publicly, ack) I won’t learn and grow. I literally cannot improve without failure.
Imperfection requires bravery. We’re comfortable hiding behind our strengths and experience. But being a beginner and facing failure both require us to be brave and resilient. We need to support ourselves: our fragile ego and delicate spirit. Being imperfect requires us to mentor ourselves. To be our own cheerleader, to recognize improvement and growth.
Perfectionism is being mean to ourselves, telling ourself we don’t have value unless and until we’re perfect. Perfectionism stems from lack of self-worth and a weak ego. Your self-worth is like a plant that’s naturally strong but can be flattened by outside forces, especially those we let in our emotional gardens. My own self-worth was flattened by twenty years with a spouse who belittled and undermined me. It took time and lots of energy to rebuild, in fact I’m still rebuilding and probably will be for life. So be careful who you let into your emotional garden, and don’t let anyone trample your self-worth.
Letting go of perfection is scary. But it’s also relaxing – you get to choose when to put in effort, how to direct your time and energy; you get to set your standards, and you get to choose what’s good enough.