After almost four decades on this planet, I’ve come to believe that the worst compliment you can give a person or their work or appearance is telling them they are perfect. Why? Perfectionism borders on compulsion, on a desire to get things right without leaving room for refinement, for growth, for exceeding expectations. In a way, the compliment turns into a platitude that feeds the insecurities, especially of overachieving minds. The internal monologue that results deconstructs every good deed, deeming it unworthy for the sake of getting it right the next time.
The quest for perfection can unhinge the most well adjusted person.
Life, in my humble and educated opinion, should be about failure. About learning quickly from our mistakes and sharing the knowledge to ensure others benefit from your experience. In essense, being human is about the Kaizen moments, the incremental effort of small tasks and win-wins that lead to a better, more robust output; those lessons that result in continuous improvement. Many noble causes and entrepreneurial spirits had been derailed from their quest because they were chasing excellence beyond that which could be achieved. They failed to embrace imperfection, to welcome the opportunity to exceed their own expectations by observing progress at a sustainable rate.
Being perfect is not worth the hassle.
Seeking excellence shouldn’t deprive you of a safe, yet challenging, learning environment in which to try out new things. Innovation and development cannot occur under group think or toxic conditions. Putting pressure on yourself to go above and beyond what is necessary without understanding the true need and/or problems that need solving will cloud the results – a solution may become temporary instead of permanent, and your efforts would, in the end, have been in vain. Many prizes and accolades were bestowed on people who didn’t deserve it, just because they seemed to be on the right track to success. No one wants to be the leader of the next Enron or Theranos; the quest for money, power, fame and even the greater good can blindside those with great intentions. Greed is often a byproduct of perfectionism, the desire for more as there’s never enough satisfaction.
Make peace with the knowledge that perfection is divine, not intended for humankind, and that which we consider perfect can naturally evolve into something greater (or sometimes worse but that’s another post entirely). Life is messy, hard, easy, unbearable and joyful, all at once. A true conundrum. Be patient and kind with yourself and others on the journey. Live your best life. Love unconditionally, always assuming good intent until proven otherwise. In the end, people are going to remember how you made them feel, not how polished and flawless you were at work, at school, at home, and in your community.
Learn to appreciate the scratches in the paint; the creases in freshly ironed pants; the barely noticeable spots a good meal left on your work shirt. Dare to ask questions that quench your thirst for information, even if they sound silly. Divide and conquer tasks that seem too overwhelming to give it not only your best but to dedicate the right amount lf attention to the mission at hand. Cover up the carpet stain with a nice pouf or furniture. Don’t make up the bed. Take pictures in the rain on your wedding day. Arrange items out of alphabetical order. Find beauty in the chaos.
Dance like no one is watching…