“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.” — Albert Camus
There have been times in my life when I’ve needed to take a risk that I’ve been scared to fail. These fears often crop up when trying new things like public speaking, job changes, and, well, the list does go on. My fear of failure often stems from a constant fear of not being good enough. Although perfectionism can drive many people to do great things, it’s this incessant hum of needing to be perfect that rolls around in the back of my brain that has held me back in so many avenues of my life.
I know what you are thinking, at least those of you who know me. Perfectionist? You? When most people think of perfectionists, they often think of high achieving flawless people with type A personalities who can multitask under tremendous pressure, and who always exceed expectations and come out the other side unscathed. They probably do not think of people, like myself, who let things go uncompleted, or often seem to settle for less.
My past is full of opportunities I let go of because not only did I feel I was not good enough, I often felt that I could not get good enough at something fast enough. You see, with some perfectionists like myself, the need to be perfect is so powerful that if the perfection does not come quick enough, we let it go. For example, over the years I have tried to learn the ukulele, the guitar, the harmonica, the recorder, and the saxophone. Although I learned to read some music, and I managed to play a couple of songs, it was never good enough. My perceived lack of musical ability was enough to stop me from continuing.
Although I am still too self-critical, some things have changed. I know most things in life require practice. After all, I’ve been able to succeed at many things that needed practice. Without it, I’d still be eating my food with my fingers and forever tripping because I could not master shoe tying, let alone the ability to walk. All masters need to practice their craft. But mastery does not always equate to perfection because there is always something else to strive towards at the end of a goal.
I have learned that perfection, because it is impossible to attain, should never be the end game. Striving for perfection will most often lead to disappointment, because you will always be chasing an impossible to achieve end. So, don’t seek perfection; strive for doing, because it is in the doing where you will find growth and a healthy sense of accomplishment. You find excellence in the act of doing, the act of practising, and in the act of learning. Practice may not make perfect, but it sure allows you to be more engaged, more focussed, more efficient, and, as a side benefit, it makes you a more well-rounded person.