I’ve (probably) blogged about it before, and I will (probably) blog about it again.
I am what kind people call a “perfectionist”(mean people call it “neurotic”). Notice the “ist” at the end, meaning that I have spent my entire life trying to be absolutely perfect. And it truly is its own lifestyle.
Of course, it started in childhood, as all traumatic things do. I had an awesome art teacher when I was in elementary school. She somehow got me to create things, which she should receive the Nobel Peace Prize for. Inevitably after I had made some mistake, (because I always did because I wanted everything to be perfect, but alas I am human) she would say: “There are no mistakes in art. Make the mistake into something else.” And then she would grab my marker and start to turn my “dog” (more like a cow) drawing into a cloud. Then, before my very eyes, it would be a cloud. And this was nothing short of black magic to me. Because when I tried myself, it never worked. I was simply stuck with some awful “dog” cloud.
And, no surprise, I never grew out of that “I can’t make mistakes into something else because I can never make mistakes” phase. I went through high school and college with a high GPA, weeping strongly when I was in danger of messing up. (And messing up would simply mean not having my paper framed in front of the class). It was like walking on a tightrope that was not only above alligators but was also made of sharp glass. You can only imagine what all of that perfectionist energy has amounted to now that I am employed in the working world. (Spoiler alert: nothing good).
So, what’s the happy ending for me? I’d love to tell you that I have now embraced the “dog” cloud life, and I can now write in pen instead of pencil so I cannot erase my mistakes but turn them into something new!
Yeah, this blog is cheesy, but it isn’t that cheesy.
I’m still obsessed with making everything really perfect. Day to day, I’m white knuckling all the way. But this quote from Steinbeck somehow brings me back down to Earth. It helps me to take one foot off the pedal and one finger off the trigger.
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
Essentially, if you stop trying to draw the dog perfectly, then you can draw the cloud. Or if you shoot for the moon, you’ll at least land among the stars. Or, if you just stop expecting perfection from yourself every time, you can focus on being actually good at what you’re doing, instead of asking yourself to do the impossible.
Because when you’re a perfectionist, no one really knows what to expect from you. They just know it will be your absolute best. And that is and always will be (whether you believe it or not) enough.