I am, and have always been, obsessed with perfection. As a little, little kid I would throw away art or projects when I made the smallest of mistakes and start again… or sometimes just say the original endeavor was too stupid to be bothered with in the first place and leave it. I believed that mantra that “practice makes perfect…” I was completely won over by Nadia Comaneci and every unhealthy thing embodied by her “perfect 10’s”. Making mistakes became more and more painful as they became horrible admissions of imperfection. It made trying new things difficult, in case I wasn’t “perfect.” It made me more and more judgmental. Obviously, this behavior breeds neuroses at best and… well, I am not sure what in the worst case scenario…. but I know it is not good.
The most ironic part of it is that, as a career perfectionist (you can find out if you are one here, I scored only 57 – I must be improving!) I am fully aware that I am not perfect (though less willing to let go of the idea that I cannot be) and am the most caught up in maintaining some ridiculous image of perfection. What a nut job, right? [This list sort of sums up my dilemma – and it is a list! The joy!] My efforts to portray (in my mind) some sort of perfect persona (not to be confused with perfect personality) have driven me to the brink of exhaustion, rage, and in some cases pure mania: insisting on getting the perfect thing for someone’s gift, having the perfect food for the party, being perfectly available, the perfect professional, the perfect student… it is all crazy and I am clear that it is all in my own head and that I am not perfect even in my best manifestations of the mantra… But still, I have managed to drive myself absolutely crazy for years living in this illusive reality that IF I try hard enough, I will be able to present myself as perfect.
What a freaking chore.
I realize this could come across as some very arrogant expose, or sense of incredibly inflated self-worth, but it is not. Perfectionists are probably the most self-critical people around and if you think we are hard on you, you’ve got no idea the abuse we can levy on ourselves.
One of the most startling things I have realized as I started to think about this Sisyphean battle I have created for my life is the realization that I am not even seeking perfection the right way. I seek perfection by staying up until all hours of the night working, but don’t consider it an imperfection to make fun of people. I seek perfection by going to the gym or yoga or whatever, everyday, but don’t consider the lack of sleep or nutrition that this brings to my lifestyle imperfect. I am an excellent consumer in order to have the perfect thing but don’t consider it imperfect to be remiss in my endeavors to reuse, recycle, etc. How totally annoying for a perfectionist to realize she is doing it wrong. It’s like that old cartoon where Donald Duck sweeps all the dirt under the rug and calls it a day.
And on top of all of this, it becomes perfectly clear that I am endeavoring to be perfect for other people rather than myself and those people don’t seem too bothered one way or another by the whole thing.
All of this must have been on my mind a lot while I was out on the Playa this summer too. I added my little bit to a collective art piece in center camp (see above) and I must now admit, that I almost started over when I messed up the writing… but in the spirit of “embracing imperfection” I let it go.
A few days later while we were at the Temple I saw the following written on one of the beams:
Let go of the past!
I Love You
My first inclination, of course, was to add the missing letter. But I didn’t. Instead I looked at it and remembered what I had written on the popsicle sticks. And then I really got it for just one minute. And so I added my new take on perfection right below, and while this may be akin to changing the rules midway through the game, I am going with it.
Thanks to Mike V. for taking the photo… I am not even sure if he knew I had written it… but you know, it all worked out perfectly in the end.
Per-fection’s my selection, and I will select
And if it’s not (per-fect) I will perfect