I liked maths at school. I liked the concreteness of it. The answer was either right or wrong. There were no grey areas. You either got the answer right, or you didn’t. I grew up enjoying the security of the correct answer, knowing that if I picked appropriately, I then would meet the standard and be satisfactory. But then always getting the answer right became hard work. When I got the answer wrong, feelings of shame and blame and judgement erupted. I saw those who around me striving to meet particular unattainable standards and melt down under the belief “If I do everything perfectly and get all straight A’s, I’ll avoid shame and be OK”. Being correct and right and looking perfect and flawless all the time became this unattainable goal. I see it now in other areas too, wanting the perfect job, the perfect home, the perfect relationship, the perfect life – we want perfection and to have it all together. And when we know that we’re not meeting these levels of perfection, we say to ourselves “I’m not good enough”.
Gretchin Rubin talks about perfection this way:
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. A twenty minute walk that I do is better than the run that I don’t do. The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer. The dinner party of takeout Chinese food is better than the elegant dinner that I never host.”
As a self-confessed achiever, I need to tape this to my mirror. Good enough is still very good. Romans 3:23, it says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Perfection is a hoax. It’s unattainable, all of us fall short. As long as we strive for it, we’ll be stressed and discontent and ashamed and frustrated. We need to learn to be kind to ourselves.
In my teams work in the creative office, I have a saying “done is better than perfect”. Yes, we aim for high standards and excellence but that’s not the same as perfection. Aiming for excellence is about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a weight that we lug around with the belief that if we do anything other than reach this burdensome standard, we’ll be deficient.
And I think that’s why I love art. With artwork, perfection is subjective. There is no wrong or right and so creating can be an antidote to perfectionism. I like the experimental nature of it. The different colours that someone could paint a daffodil and it still is beautiful and right. The different words that people used to illustrate a scenario and capture the details in different ways. There’s safety and freedom in art.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” We ourselves are living works of art with weaknesses and cracks and imperfections. My husband often laughs at my chaotic, disordered way of living. He once came home and thought the house had been burgled. It hadn’t, I’d just got changed and couldn’t decide what to wear. I’m currently wearing jogging bottoms, 2 woolly jumpers, hair tied in a top knot – I look a scruff. But there is beauty in imperfection. My slippers are comfy, my glasses give my eyes a rest and my oversized jumper reminds me of my family as it was a gift from my brother.
There is beauty in imperfection so be kind to yourself. Embrace your imperfections and free yourself to create.
“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” Don Millar