Strive for Excellence. Perfection is Overrated

by Laura Kronen on December 13, 2010

images-6The pressures placed on a person in today’s society are spinning out of control. The quest to have the perfect work/life/family balance is overwhelming. Everyone is striving for perfection, which is completely unrealistic. Strive for excellence within your career and your family, but understand that it involves making mistakes, and that mistakes are learning experiences.

The other day I was at a friend’s house where her young son was practicing his guitar and playing an old Billy Joel song, Honesty. When he finished the song, my girlfriend told him that he was off in a couple of sections and he should play it again.  Her son, caught up in the joy of self-expression, replied, “But, that’s the way I played it!”

As someone who hears the constant voice of self-criticism and expects perfection herself, I was struck with admiration for her son’s integrity. How many of us have such loyalty to “imperfect” reality that we would be perfectly content with that first rendition? Most of us are much more focused on achieving perfection — a life free from flaws and mistakes.  But yet, here, her young son got it.  He understood that nothing has to be PERFECT to be right. We should all try to get back some of that innocence and authenticity.

The mother of the boy on the guitar is just a small example of a person’s belief that perfection is the only way.  Musicians and athletes spend hours practicing their craft or sport, striving to ensure a perfect performance. At work, we’re intent on becoming idealized by colleagues and superiors.  Brides on their wedding day accept nothing less than perfection. Heaven forbid it rains, the day is close to being ruined.  Models are retouched to the point of non-recognition in magazines. As if their long legs and beautiful features aren’t enough, society and the media insist they need to be flawless.  Isn’t that a little boring?

But what is perfection exactly — and how do we know when we’ve achieved it? Is it possible that the eternal pursuit of perfection could actually result in eternal dissatisfaction? Why can’t we simply have that little boy’s attitude of appreciation for “the way he played it”?  Can’t we get rid of our fear of making mistakes or appearing less than perfect?

Where did we get this notion of perfection from anyway?  Have we been conditioned by society and media into a false belief that there is universal agreement when, in fact, there’s no definitive consensus on what that is? One of my favorite take-a-ways from college is the Theory of Perfection that I studied in Philosophy.  We all think we know the idea of perfection, but yet cannot name anything that is truly “perfect”, therefore, God must exist, because someone or some higher power gave us that concept.  So, is this where it is all stemming from?   And lastly, is one persons perfection another person’s imperfection? Think about this – is the “perfect” dinner party the one with the exquisite flower arrangements, carefully matched settings and elaborate desserts, or the one with nonstop laughter that goes long into the night?

Even if you are, by all intents and purposes, perfect, not everyone is going to love you. It doesn’t work that way. So what’s the point?  Appreciate your mistakes, and don’t let the fear of appearing foolish when learning something new deter you. So when you’re beating yourself up because things are not going the way you think they should, who’s to say you can’t pronounce things perfect just as they are, no matter how frustrating, embarrassing, or out of tune it is — because “that’s the way you played it”?  Think about it.

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