As I write this, I am thinking perfectionism fits perfectly here right after the topic of achieving personal goals since the two can be intertwined. I am the type of person who starts something brand new on Monday and expects to be perfect at it by Friday (of the same week). Yes, I am a closet perfectionist. (I guess since I am writing this, I am no longer in the closet!) And I had been frustrated a lot of times in my life.
I learned a valuable lesson about perfectionism from my granddaughter. When she was learning to talk, oftentimes her speech would be grammatically incorrect. We would correct her, she would repeat it and go merrily along her way. No uncomfortableness, no shame in her game. It suddenly dawned on me one day I wanted to be perfect at everything I did because it was uncomfortable for me to have other people see me stumble, make a mistake, not be perfect in doing something. And this is what I learned from my granddaughter….I don’t have to be perfect. In fact, it is better if I am not.
Webster defines perfect as “being entirely without fault or defect”.* Wow, what an ideal and what a complete end. I realized that if I was “entirely without fault or blemish”, I would stop. Stop learning, stop doing, stop asking questions, stop reaching, stop evolving into someone better than I was yesterday. After all, “I’m perfect now”; you can’t get better than perfect. Don’t believe me? When you reached the “perfect” height for you according to your DNA, you stopped growing taller. And without heels, you won’t get any taller. Right or right?
I also realized being perfect would prevent me from learning. Not only do I learn by comprehending facts, but I also learn by making mistakes. Think about it. How many times have you said, “I’ll never make that mistake again!”? Did you? No, and neither did I, because we learned (the hard way) what not to do. If I was perfect, I wouldn’t make a mistake and I would miss valuable unforgettable lessons. I would also miss other people’s outpouring of genuine help and insights.
The important thing is not that I am perfect, but that I have the courage and tenacity and humility to keep going, to keep learning, to keep growing.
Right now, I am learning to speak Spanish. (Estoy aprendendo espanol). I have been in the learning mode for a few years longer than I would like. (I want to speak Spanish perfectly NOW!) Yeah, it’s uncomfortable not speaking Spanish perfectly when I talk to people who are fluent in Spanish. I get nervous and make mistakes (like “el carro es grande” when I should be saying “el caro es grande”). But, my Spanish speaking friends jump right in a gladly help me and give me their insights for learning Spanish. And I learn and get better and sometimes make new Spanish speaking friends!
Question for Comment: Are you a closet perfectionist?
(originally posted July 14, 2010)
*Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary copyright © 2010 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.