‘Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.’ ~ Harriet Braiker.
Does someone reside inside your head, whispering that you should be perfect? Is there a critic who reviews your work, constantly giving you uninvited advice? I usually introduce myself to a new class by telling them there are two things they should know about me: Number 1: I am perfect, and for emphasis I add, I don’t make mistakes. And number 2: I can draw. I say this as a way to make the students laugh; but I say it in a very serious way. And since they don’t know me at this point, they tend to laugh a little nervously. Especially when they later find out that quite plainly, I am not an artist. But they have already been warned never to suggest that I cannot draw.
But there is another reason why I make this joke. I say it out loud to remind me how important it is not to take myself too seriously. Because if I am not careful, I will expect that I should be perfect, and I will get very upset when I find I have made a mistake. And since I am human, I am fallible, and thus prone to make mistakes.
Not only is it demoralizing to strive for perfection, it can also be paralyzing. The desire to be perfect, to make no mistakes, can stop you cold as you try to make sure you have done everything correctly. Whether you are preparing for a presentation, or a meeting, or a meal for friends, instead of enjoying the moment, you try so hard to achieve the unattainable that you end up a nervous wreck.
There are nights when instead of falling asleep, my mind is racing down paths it has no need to follow. Asleep I will have dreams that continue to chase solutions to all manner of problems. As I get older I try to break the cycle of overthinking by being more conscious. It is futile to try to anticipate and plan for things that may never happen. I try to just ‘let it go’ and ‘go with the flow’. It is far healthier to accept that there is very little in life you have control of. Much easier on the nerves to recognize that the world will not end if things do not always go according to plan.
This morning I heartily recommend that if you have any of these tendencies, you begin to work on yourself. Meditation is one way to train the mind to stop chasing round in circles. As thoughts arise, identify them as nothing but thoughts. Bless them, and send them on their way. Accept that you are a wonderful human being, with many talents, striving to do your best, but that at times you can and will mess up. And the world will go on turning. Learn from your mistakes without reliving them, without trying to undo your missteps, without trying to keep up a pretense of perfection.
As children we were taught to ‘aim for the stars, you’ll reach the sky’. This is fine, so long as you don’t beat up on yourself each time you fall short of your goal. Having ambition and the drive to improve yourself through effort is a good thing. Accepting that you have limitations and are not superhuman will make the journey a little less stressful.
This Friday morning I hope that if you identify in any way with these tendencies, you will stop and reflect for a moment. Focus on the big things you have accomplished and not the minor setbacks along the way. Appreciate yourself for your talents and abilities and don’t obsess on your shortcomings. It may be that when you learn to relax you actually achieve greater heights. We are all human, we all have amazing gifts.
Have a wonderful day, and a great weekend, Family!
One Love! Namaste!
I learned that even excellence has limits. When you strive for perfection you’re setting yourself up to fail. Thank you for the reminder 🙂
PS. I’ve seen your stick figures and they are perfect!
Still working on my need to be perfect – but as far as my drawing – I KNOW I can draw!!!
passing this on to all my final examers…take a deep breath!
Exactly! Takes a long time to learn and even longer to practice!
Thanks for inspiring us to strive for excellence instead oof perfection.
I’ve never even tried for mediocrity with my drawing skills. A few years back, I tried drawing my impression of a garden, and asked my students to guess what I’d drawn. Most of them said politely, ‘A toaster?’ Thanks for visiting my blog. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.
Abstract art is never truly appreciated! I don’t let it stop me!