Yesterday was the equinox, the start of fall.
A time to pause and reflect on where the year has taken us, and where we plan to go during the remaining months.
The thing about plans and goals though, is that they generally don’t go quite as planned. Something always happens.
And that leads to frustration.
But what if our goal was for something other than perfection? Other than perfection in ourselves, in our plans, in our goals, in those around us?
It’s a scary word.
The state of being perfect.
Dictionary.com defines the word “perfect” as an adjective, meaning:
1. conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type: a perfect sphere; a perfect gentleman.
2. excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement: There is no perfect legal code. The proportions of this temple are almost perfect.
3. exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose: a perfect actor to play Mr. Micawber; a perfect saw for cutting out keyholes.
4. entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings: a perfect apple; the perfect crime.
5. accurate, exact, or correct in every detail: a perfect copy.
When I was little, it always seemed as if I was required to be perfect. Perfect when cleaning up. Perfect when helping in the kitchen. Perfect in school. Perfect behavior.
Whether or not that was actually expected didn’t really matter because it was how I felt.
I never felt good enough at anything.
Over the years, I have struggled with perfection. I wanted so desperately for things to be perfect that I would get completely stuck and everything would go to crap because I wouldn’t be able to see past the perceived mistake/mess/whatever. The concept of ‘good enough’ was not just foreign but completely alien to me.
Think about the words in the definition: conforming, excellent, complete, exactly, entirely, accurate. These are all words that give me a feeling of rigidity and failure.
How in the world am I supposed to be able to do all of that consistently without failing? I can’t. It’s completely impossible. Trust me; I have berated myself for nearly as long as I can remember about not being able to do anything perfectly.
Everyone was better than me at everything. My uncle, the fashion designer, could do it all – anything you can think of artistically, he could do it with ease. He was perfect at art. My grandmother, the farm girl seamstress, could sew anything under the sun with a blindfold on. She was perfect at sewing. My mother could write and draw and sew. She was perfect at projects. My aunt was a genius with stained glass. She was the perfect glass artist. The list of talented individuals in my family goes on and on and on.
But, what I never realized, is that to them – they were excellent at their crafts, but definitely not perfect.
It took me many years to come to terms with perfection vs. excellence and it’s something I definitely still struggle with today. One author, Marla Cilley aka The FlyLady, has a great saying “progress not perfection” that she uses when talking about decluttering and organizing your home. This saying really hit home with me and it has been one of the most pivotal discoveries of my adult life. I often say “excellence not perfection” because I know that I am human and I will make mistakes, but I want to always strive for excellence.
I think back to all the times I felt horrible as a child for not being as perfect as so-and-so and wonder how much time I wasted when I could have been reaching for the stars and achieving excellence and making progress.
Nowadays, I still struggle with the concept of perfection and my preconceived notion that I will never be as perfect as so-and-so at something. But, instead of getting frozen and not doing anything at all, I strive for progress and excellence instead of being perfect.
I may not be a perfect painter like my uncle, but I absolutely love putting brush to canvas and the process of painting is much more important to me than the product now.
I might not be a perfect seamstress, but I make weighted therapy items that help special needs kids.
I might not be a perfect writer, but I put my words down on paper so that others may read them.
I may not be a perfect anything, but I hope and pray that I continue to progress forward toward excellence and I can definitely live with excellence over perfection.