The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection. – Goethe
I am, for better or for worse, the poster boy for perfectionism. I’m the type who aspires to cross my t’s and dot my i’s. It means I’m setting incredibly high expectations for myself. And Unbelievably so. In everything that I do. So, when I fail … Lord, have mercy, you don’t want to be in my sights. Because I’m angry at myself for missing the mark, and that doesn’t make me nice to be around.
Does Perfectionism Serve Us?
When I’m working to achieve a goal and succeed at it, I strive to be perfect to show that I have mastered the necessary skills, that I have done my homework. It helps me to cross the finish line, per se. Yet in the process, I’m driving myself crazy wondering: Did I get it right? What could I have done differently or better? Is there a way for me to still improve? Chasing perfectionism can, then, also become a ball and chain.
As an indie author, I chase perfectionism because my books are equally my brand. It’s not just that I want to tell engaging stories that readers will love. I don’t want avoidable spelling or grammatical errors to detract them. That’s why I always hire a professional editor, proofreader, book cover designer and formatter. Who wants to read something that comes across as a first draft? Or where there are problems with character and plot development, continuity, or story arc? So I do, unapologetically, aim for perfection.
Letting Go of Perfectionism
When I bake, I expect the recipe to turn out perfect (even if I’m distracted). When I run, I expect it to feel effortless (even if I’m tired or injured). When I read, I expect to easily grasp the concepts (even if it’s a new subject area I’m exploring). How do I stop chasing perfectionism? I do it by reminding myself that life isn’t always a competition.
It’s okay that other runners pass me on the trail. It’s okay that a recipe flops because I can always try it again. And it’s okay that I have to reread a chapter of a book to grasp a concept. That’s what learning and growing look like, right?
Letting go of perfection is a struggle because it means recognizing my limits, which can be extremely uncomfortable. It’s a journey that I’m taking day by day. It’s also about accepting who I am, as I am, imperfections and all.
As we navigate through life, doing what we love or are called to do, the most important thing we can do is be ourselves. And, to me, that looks like perfect imperfection.