Practice makes perfect? Maybe for some, but for most of us, it just makes us better. Should we only practice things so that we can get better at them? Why do we always want things to be better? Why should we strive for perfection all the time?
There’s something that has helped my day-to-day mental health. I’m calling it ‘The (Im)Perfection Factor’. It’s related to a way of thinking that stuck with me through much of my early life. It was a way of thinking that stopped me from getting much done and likely reduced my overall enjoyment of life.
I used to have a desire to have things as near to perfect as I possibly could. When things weren’t perfect (and the reality is that nothing I ever did was perfect), I saw the imperfections loud and clear, screaming out at me above anything else. If I didn’t think that I could do something close to perfect, then I would not do it. I’m not sure if this was some kind of ‘fear of failure’, with failure being rated according to the number of imperfections, but it interfered with my enjoyment of life and with the amount of things that I achieved. It filtered down to every little thing I did. If I was going to get a T.V. it had to be the best that I could afford, I wanted the picture and sound to be as near to perfect as possible. When my car needed cleaning, I cleaned every last part of it inside and out. If I didn’t think that I had time to fully clean the entire car then I would not clean it at all (a quick spot-clean was not perfect enough and so never happen). This did not mean that my car was always clean. While these are things did not have a major impact on me, I believe that this is how the imperfection factor manifested in my day-to-day life.
I know that for some people, this striving for perfection is part of what drives them to achieve greatness. However, my life has become better without it. I like to create. I write music, poetry, draw, and love building things from wood. However, there are many times that I did not complete a song because I did not think it would be ‘perfect’. There are many times that I did not embark on a piece of art because I did not think that the idea was perfect or that I could execute it perfectly. There is so much that was not created because I was hung up on the outcome being ‘good enough’. I would never just draw for fun and see where it went.
“…love the process not the product and cherish the beauty of imperfections”
What I have learned, that has significantly improved my enjoyment of life, is to love the process not the product and to cherish the beauty of imperfections. Instead of focusing on the quality of a final drawing, I focus on the process of drawing – which I love! I love to draw, I love to colour. When I finish a piece, I no longer see the imperfections as mistakes, but as things that add to the individuality. Because I am no longer solely focused on the quality of the end result, I create much more freely and my enjoyment of the process has increased ten fold. After all, who am I creating for? If for myself, should perfection matter?
By setting more realistic expectations, I no longer expect perfect behaviour from students. I accept that they are young children and I have learned to enjoy their quirks and approaches to life. This in turn has greatly improved my relationships with the students I teach. I’ve always loved the artwork of seven-year-olds and now I realize that it is because of the individuality of their work. They are creating because they love the process and are not hung-up on the perfection of the end result. It is so often us adults that point out the ‘flaws’ that we perceive in their work. We even go so far as to teach them to look for flaws and attempt to ‘correct’ them. I choose not to be critical of others. Instead of critiquing our differences, I admire and expect the variety of character traits in people I meet.
Years ago, I could never have written this blog. I know it isn’t perfect. I know that it doesn’t get my point across quite as well as I would like. But, I have enjoyed writing it. I’ll probably enjoy tweaking it from time to time. It reflects a little bit of what I believe in – a little bit of who I am. I’m glad that I have written it, despite any spelling errors, grammar issues, and clumsy phrases that might exist. I hope that someone else will read it, relate to it, and maybe even learn what I, like Jane Austen and so many others before me have learned…
…it’s our imperfections that make us perfect.