How not to be Perfect

How not to be perfectLast week I wrote about Drivers and most specifically about the “Be Strong” driver.  This week I want to focus on “Be Perfect” because the two often go hand in hand, an inability to ask for help may stem from the fact that to show weakness is to be imperfect.

People with a strong “Be Perfect” driver tend to be driven and critical.  They don’t delegate because no one else will do things as well they do.  They may be competitive, over worked and high achieving yet still dissatisfied with everything they do.  That’s quite a bleak place to be.

It took me a long time to come to terms with my own desire for perfection.  Aspects of it work well for me, I work hard, focus and generally get good results but, these days, I try to stop short of obsessing.

There was a time when I would have been mortified if someone had pointed out a typo or an error in my work.  Now, if I make a mistake, I just rectify it.  The world doesn’t end.

So what changed?  How can we learn to simply be “enough”?

First of all, define “enough” for yourself.  For me it means to do the best I can with the resources I have.  I can accept that my efforts are not and can not be perfect so long as I know I did my best within the constraints of time/energy/cost etc.  Quality is always a negotiation.

Secondly, get some feedback.  Understand that other people don’t always need or appreciate perfection.  They value and engage with “human”.  Your drive to “Be Perfect” might actually get in the way if what they want is speed or economy or spontaneity.  Give yourself some feedback too.  Stop criticising yourself when you don’t achieve perfection, praise yourself for being enough and having energy left for something (or someone) else.

Finally, learn to laugh at yourself.  Stop taking yourself so seriously.  When I was studying for a degree in Psychology, getting high marks, aiming for a First, I was eternally grateful for the one friend who always said “Why?  More than a pass is a waste!”  When he laughed at me I also laughed at myself and, within that laughter, I was able to see myself more clearly.  I still worked hard, still got the grades but didn’t invest all my self-esteem in those results.

Next time you find yourself being overly critical of your own efforts remember the imperfect stitch.  Persian rug makers would always put a deliberate mistake into their rugs as a reminder that they are human and only God is perfect.

If you remain unconvinced consider these words from TH White:

“If people reach perfection they vanish, you know.” (The Once and Future King)

What does being “enough” mean to you?


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