Many of us strive for this in the things we pursue. But have you ever stopped to think that the relentless pursuit of perfection could actually hurt you … or your children?
We are raised to do the best we can in everything we do – school, sports, personal relationships, and jobs. We are rewarded for above-average performance in just about every area of our lives virtually from the time we are born. This creates a deep need to be perfect for many reasons – to gain affection from loves ones, to gain approval from our peers and those we see as authority figures, and to advance our lives in so many ways.
What happened to being satisfied with our best efforts? If we don’t allow ourselves to experience simply being satisfied, we create a downward spiral of our own making.
This sense of dissatisfaction may have become embedded when we were small children. As kids, we want to make our parents proud and to seek their approval, and unfortunately, some parents take this pressure too far. I know I have told my own children, “You got a B on this assignment. With just a bit more effort, you could have gotten an A.” We do it to our kids in academics, in sports and extracurricular activities. Have your kids participated in Awana, or Bible quizzing? I can recall pressuring my kids to memorize more, and memorize better. Did that help them to have a deeply satisfying spiritual life? Sadly, no.
As adults, we aren’t governed by our past, but those habits and thinking patterns can be difficult to reform. Performing to the best of your ability should bring a sense of deep satisfaction completely unrelated to any outcome.
Have you heard the expression, “DONE is better than perfect?” Think for a moment about the projects or things you have put off because you couldn’t do them perfectly. Artistic pursuits? Writing that novel? If you wait until you can do it perfectly, guess what? You’ll never do it.
Doing things that interest us or fuel us can bring deep satisfaction and a feeling of fulfillment. But if your goal is perfection, you’ll never know that fulfillment.
In my own life, I have had to learn to combat my negative self-talk about writing rejection. If I sent a proposal or an article out and it was rejected, my immediate instinct was to internalize a feeling that I am not good enough.
The reality is that the world’s acceptance of our artistic efforts is subject to many things beyond our control. The markets, the reading habits of the public, the needs of editors, and many more factors determine whether or not our offerings will be accepted.
Keeping this perspective has kept me writing – imperfectly, albeit inconsistently. It will bless who it was meant to bless. I take great satisfaction from that.
Once you recognize your perfectionist tendencies, you can take steps to tame them. I want to model this for my children as well. Putting them under too much pressure with a focus on winning and perfection will rob them of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Instead, celebrate everyone’s best efforts and keep pushing forward. As we each embrace our imperfection, we are all more loving and accepting. Isn’t that what this old world needs?
You might also like: Embracing imperfection as a gift
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