The Quest for Perfection

A self-confessed perfectionist contemplates why she strives to be fault-free.

by Hollee Chadwick Jones • More.com Member { View Profile }

I have spent a great deal of time discussing perfection—the quest for it and its possible attainment. I will stand up right now (figuratively as I can’t type on my laptop while standing because my lap disappears) and say, “Hi. My name is Hollee, and I am a perfectionist.”

That being said, I will also now admit that I am far from perfect in any way, shape, or form — ergo most of my life, I have been my biggest disappointment.

During a long conversation with a loved one who, in some ways, knows me better than I know myself, I realized what a hard row to hoe this has been — this standard of perfection I have set for myself. Not that I was feeling sorry for myself at the difficulties I’ve encountered since my perfection quest was initiated in my teen years. No, I have no patience with “woe is me” conversations when I am the woe-er. I merely acknowledged to myself that those difficulties were of my own making and not the fault of any external force.

Nor have I set the same standard for others that I have set for myself, which, when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, means that I have set myself above others since perfection was obviously not possible for them . . . Wow! That thought just occurred to me. That is not good.

But I digress.

This need for perfection has, at times in my life, hindered my ability to start a task because I was afraid I would not be able to do it completely right. It has skewed my vision of myself to such a degree that I mentally pick myself apart whenever I look in the mirror. I literally do not see what I am told others see when they look at me. It has made me choose friends and companions that I felt were not perceptive enough to see my flaws, my defects, my “idiot”syncracies. Yes, that is a harsh statement, but there it is. But in my mind this was logical. If I chose someone who was as smart as me, or as driven as me, or who had my same talents, then they would be able to see when I made a mistake. (Now please take that last sentence in the spirit it is intended those of you who don’t know me. I do not dumb myself down. I know I am intelligent, ambitious, and have certain talents. I inherited all of those things, and I won’t deny a single one. To do so is false modesty.)

My greatest fears in life are being wrong and being made to feel stupid. I don’t fear dying. I am a Christian. And I don’t fear being alone. I don’t want to be alone, but I don’t fear it. Admittedly, I do fear clowns, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. To the depths of my soul, I fear I may make an error in judgment in my work, in my life, and I fear that someone may find out some day that, for the most part, I have no clue what I am doing.

That last is entirely illogical because I have spent my life learning everything I possibly can about what I do for a living, and yet, I have had no formal “schooling” in my craft. I have worked my way up or sideways through the ranks of the writing community for the past 30-plus years. I have picked the brains of everyone who I admire as a writer and gleaned what I could from the fields of work I am pursuing or want to pursue.

So in some ways my need for perfection has forced me to put myself out there—to forgo my fear of having “stupid” written on my forehead—and asked those who do know how they do that voodoo they do so well. I would have much preferred to just stand next to them and absorbed the knowledge from them, but since that is not yet possible, I had to actually ask questions. Asking questions was me admitting to myself and to the person questioned that I did not know something. That is and was very hard.

My need for perfection has also driven me to always do the very best I can at anything I undertake — although it has hindered me from being an undertake-er in some instances. That qualifies it as a Catch-22.

The question is: “What do I do? How do I accept less than perfection in myself?”

And these thoughts occurred to me as my loved one and I were talking: Is a sunset any less beautiful when you discover that the reason for the multi-colors is pollution? And which is more beautiful — the perfectly unblemished piece of pseudo-wood, or the knotty, nicked, and weathered wood that has a story to tell?

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