Practice, not perfectionism
One of the most obnoxious voices in my head is the one saying that things need to be perfect. Perfectionism comes in various shapes and sizes—sometimes it requires that our homework be completed with 110 percent accuracy, or that every little task on our to-do list be checked off by bedtime.
For some of us, perfectionism means being hard on ourselves when we make mistakes. And others find ourselves uncomfortably sad when our lives don’t look like the perfect picture we envisioned in our minds. Regardless, whatever shape, size, or point of view it takes, perfectionism can be a monster. And most of all, it keeps us from the beauty of the reality of our lives.
One of the most helpful slogans I’ve ever heard is PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. For someone who would redo math homework if it was too messy, and clean and organize my room to combat a bad day, this idea was completely foreign to me. What was the point of making progress if I was never going to reach the ultimate end—perfection?
Even Winston Churchill agrees about irony of perfection: “They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.” Something about knowing I could reach an end where everything would finally be perfect seems incredibly fulfilling and calming for me. But today I know that aiming for perfection is entirely futile. Perfection is a moving target, in fact, it’s an illusionary moving target.
Waiting to start enjoying my life until things look perfect is a deceptive way to keep me from living. Although many may want more friends, a better relationship, a more elaborate wardrobe, to lose weight, and/or better grades, life doesn’t change that much if one attains all the above. The wrapping paper may be different, but the gift inside is exactly the same.
Enjoying the present is a habit that takes practice. For this moment, how can you measure the good in your life? How can you appreciate whatever is in front of you? Although I encourage you to pursue your dreams and do your best to attain your goals and desires, practice living today for today, not for the expectation of a better tomorrow.
Another side of perfectionism is punishing ourselves when we are human. Being human means we make mistakes. We all say things we don’t mean, do things we shouldn’t, and act out from time to time. In my experience, it is harder to forgive myself than it is for the person who I have hurt to forgive me. I can’t seem to let myself off the hook for being imperfect. But I’m human, and I am imperfect…and it’ll always be that way. Today, I try to love myself for it.
Every day do the best you can. As cliché as this may sound, that is ALL that is ever expected of you. Give up the need to be perfect, and bask in the triumph of becoming your most genuine self—because a truly beautiful thing is never perfect.
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