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?
My mother continuously reminds me that a diamond — the most perfect of gemstones — is made from coal, which is decomposed vegetable matter. A pearl (my particular favorite) is not, as commonly told, made from a grain of sand. A pearl is formed when something organic, most often a parasite, penetrates the shell of a mollusk and lodges within the soft inner body of the animal. The parasite encounters cells within the mollusk's mantle tissue known as epithelial cells, which grow into a sac, envelopes the intruder, and excretes a chemical substance of aragonite and calcite. This is known as nacre or the composite of a pearl.
I don’t know how not to be hard on myself. I have no clue. But I have been told that there comes a time when good enough needs to be accepted. I am not to settle for only achieving good enough — that is a bar set too low for my personality and I am done with settling — however, as long as I can truthfully say that I have given my absolute best effort, then that is good enough. I cannot be all things to all people, I cannot fill everyone’s needs, I cannot do everything myself — I have to ask for assistance, let go and allow someone else to help me (not ask for help then do it all myself anyway), learn from my mistakes, learn from others who have already successfully done what I want or need to do, and accept that there may be times when I can’t do something. I need to learn when “No” is the perfect answer.
I need to look at my flaws and defects — the decomposed vegetable matter and parasites — as, perhaps, that which makes me unique. It is those very things that keep me from being a cookie-cutter human, a Stepford, which gives me depth and contrast, just as clouds enhance the perfection of a blue sky.
I will think on these things — remind myself of them when my perfection bug gets the best of me. That is the best I can do in this instance.
However, I was told today that I am loved for who I am, flaws and all, without reservation, without modification, without an “except for ... ” How perfect is that?