I have always felt the pressure of perfection – and to be completely blunt – it has never served me well. Take this blog post, it will start out as a pleasurable experience (as all my writing projects do), but it won’t be long before the perfectionist voice makes an appearance – particularly when it’s time to publish – checking for mistakes, judging my sentence structure, questioning the tone – you name it.
While there is nothing wrong with setting a high standard for our work, when what we create or do has to be ‘perfect’ and the outcome is – well – no outcome at all – then we have a problem.
“It’s got to be perfect” – what does that even mean?
For every quote describing the word in a positive light, there’s another describing it otherwise:
“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” Aristotle
“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” George Orwell
And this is the same for how people associate with the word. For some it can be motivating and rewarding – it is just a word after all. However, for others it can be demotivating and even debilitating.
The Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of the word ‘perfect’ is: “Free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality.”
What if we were to add the word “Humans” at the beginning of that sentence: “Humans, free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality.” Do you know anyone who fits this definition?
What human is truly free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality?
So why do we expect that of ourselves when we don’t even expect it of others? In the words of Alexander Pope: “To err is human”.
We are designed to explore – we are designed to learn – we are designed to experiment – we are designed to make mistakes.
We are NOT designed to be flawless – we are NOT designed to be perfect.
You might say that by striving for perfection we set ourselves to higher standards – and there is an element of truth to that. We always want to improve and get better, stronger, faster, smarter – striving towards our goals. However, as I mentioned earlier, perfection can have the opposite effect. Perfection can stop us from going beyond a certain level – that level where we can easily achieve and consider what we’re doing or what we’ve created as ‘perfect’ – that comfortable level. But what about the next level – that upper level where we’ve never been before?
Gay Hendricks in his book ‘The Big Leap’ calls this upper limit level the ‘Genius Zone’ – a place where we let go of our limiting beliefs and the fears that hold us back.
- Keep us playing small
- Keep our mind closed to possibilities
- Keep us from striving
- Keep us from being human!
As an entrepreneur, I value being FREE to create, learn, grow, experiment – and just be myself – warts and all.
But being FREE of flaws and defects – that’s a whole different kind of freedom.
Studies are finding that levels of perfectionism are on the increase, particularly with young people. If this is the case, and the younger generations are demanding more of themselves and others, and believe others are demanding more of them, what impact is this having on their self-worth and self-confidence? How do they feel when they make mistakes? Do they see it as a learning experience – or are they filled with shame and fear the judgement of others?
There are no definitive answers, but one thing these findings should do is create awareness that there may be negative consequences for some when seeking perfection.
Believe me, I’ve already been editing parts of this article – even when I promised myself I would wait until the ‘crappy first draft’ was complete – and that’s OK – I’m a work-in-progress.
What I do know for sure is that I will finish this article – and I will post it – warts and all!
“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist. Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.” Dr. Stephen Hawkings