If I Was Perfect, I Wouldn’t Be
Trying to be perfect is where the trouble begins.
Being a perfectionist is nothing to brag about. People who claim to be a perfectionist or have perfectionist tendencies are more than just detail-oriented high achievers. Often, they are unknowingly plagued with anxiety and fear. I’m talking about myself as well.
“Perfection is shallow, unreal, and fatally uninteresting.” — Anne Lamott
Don’t get me wrong. Perfection has a bright side which can be a healthy personality trait, where someone is greatly self-motivated to strive for excellence constantly, but at the same time, there is acceptance when a mark has been missed. This involves the setting of high personal standards and working toward those marks in a positive minded manner. These efforts help to maintain a sense of accomplishment — a proud feeling of having done something difficult and worthwhile.
On the other hand, a perfectionist with a poor adaption to situations can accept nothing other than perfection, and it can spiral into life-changing complications. The continuous worry about making mistakes, disappointing others, or not measuring up to their own unrealistic high standards, have left people with a sense of anxiety and fear filled with grim.
The Cost Of Perfection
If you can accept nothing more than perfection, you’re setting yourself up for repeated failure by setting the bar so high, no human could ever possibly reach it.
For me, to do my work perfectly, meant a lot to me. I didn’t know the cost of perfection, until one day I felt so miserable and drained, I reached out to my mentor to ask for advice. What she replied to me has changed my life drastically.
“Ye, why don’t you allow yourself to make mistakes? Your peers allow you to make mistakes, why can’t you? If perfection is what you seek, then I’m afraid you will never make real progress in life. You’ll constantly be afraid to try something new and just stay in your own safety bubble as you are now. What have you learned lately anyway?”
That kicked me down so hard, and it was exactly what I needed. My sense of anxiety and fear were shedding away. I had let go of the life I had planned for myself in the future and started to live the life that is waiting for me now.
“I am learning to trust the journey even when I do not understand it.” — Mila Bron
Let me share with you what has changed since then.
1. Doing The Best I Can
I used to be worried about being perfect and doing flawless, I almost became paralysed. It felt like a shadow was cast over me and held me in its grip. I had spent hours slaving over an assignment only to miss the deadline, because nothing I created meets the impossible standards I’ve set for myself. I engaged myself in this vicious cycle where nothing is ever good enough, so I never made any forward progress.
Now, I lowered my standards and I started doing the best I can and take pleasure in being good enough. It’s better to deliver something imperfectly, than nothing perfectly.
“I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed.” — Robert H. Schuller
2. Being More Open With Self-Doubts
I hesitated to tell others, especially close friends or family, about my mistakes or worries, because I was afraid to reveal that I’m flawed. I could only talk about what I did perfectly, and I bragged about it. I kept my mistakes close to myself, therefore, I wasn’t getting any useful information about the fact why I flawed. After letting go of my obsession with perfection, I recognised there was no need to be perfect and that no one can reach true perfection.
Now, I talk and write openly about my flaws, as you can read in my previous stories and will read in my future ones. I can even laugh about it with others and enjoy the time spent doing so.
“We come to love by not finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” — Sam Keen
3. Forming Long-Term Relationships
My need to be perfect has sabotaged relationships with friends, romantic partners, family and colleagues. This was especially the case with group projects where I had to give up control, and my need to micromanage others prevented me from forming meaningful bonds. The same story transferred to my romantic relationships. The need to be right all the time didn’t leave a lot of room for an intimate partner with a different perspective.
Now, forming long-term relationships has become one of my top priorities and the most enjoyable one simultaneously. Letting go of perfection has brought me to know many people of which some I consider my dearest. Gaining their trust and respect, and building each other up has been a priceless experience. And the best relationships, usually begins at a random place, at a random time, at a random “hello”, with no perfect plan to follow.
Nothing could ever top that.
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