When I was a child my parents took me to a local book fair held inside a school gymnasium. I was so excited because even at a young age, and despite the fact that I wasn’t a very good reader, I loved books. They told stories. Stories that would fill my imagination with wonderful heroes, dark lands, and far-off adventures.
So as I wanted into the book fair and saw the gym filled with book vendors of every kind, standing behind folding tables decorated, and piled high with books, I could barely contain my excitement. I had every intention of finding a story to read.
At the time I was really into “choose your own adventure” books and had my heart set on finding a few new ones to add to my meager collection, but as I walked along the rows and rows of book vendors a book caught my attention. I was a white journal with Yoda on the cover in a cartoon image. I had not intended to get a journal, and truth be told I had never written in a journal before, but there was something about this book that drew me to it. So with the small allowance I had saved, I purchased my very first journal.
I had grown up watching my father write in a journal regularly, and I was excited to be doing something that emulated him, so when I got home I took my journal to my room, sat down at my little desk, a desk that used to belong to my father as a child, and began to write my first page…
I don’t remember what I wrote, to be honest, but I remember hating it. It wasn’t right, it didn’t look like my dad’s journal pages, my handwriting was messy, and my thoughts were dumb. The bottom line…it wasn’t perfect.
In a frustrated fit, I remember ripping the 1st page out of the journal, because if it wasn’t perfect it didn’t deserve to exist. So I crumpled up the paper, tossed it over my shoulder, and turned back to the journal to try again. Again and again, I tried to write, and again and again, I kept ripping pages out, all because I was under the misguided idea that if what I created wasn’t perfect it didn’t deserve to exist.
After doing this over and over again for some time I now had a new problem. I had ripped so many pages out of the journal that the inside spine was now scared, damaged, and clearly missing pages. The journal no longer looked nice. The journal was no longer perfect.
I tried to fix it, but the damage was done. In my quest for perfection, I had destroyed the very object that just a few hours before had brought me so much happiness and excitement. This idea of perfectionism and the notion that if it wasn’t perfect it didn’t deserve to exist would follow me for many years to come, and many more journals fell to this misguided idea.
But it wasn’t just journals, I threw away photos I had taken, stories I had written, song recordings I had done, and so much more. If I couldn’t be “perfect” in a certain class, I would just stop trying. If I couldn’t be perfect at a new skill I just wouldn’t learn.
Over and over again I would lose out on so many things because in my mind anything that wasn’t perfect didn’t deserve to exist.
Thankfully, I eventually learned that I was wrong and that perfectionism is nothing worth striving for. Perfectionism is a myth. A myth that doesn’t really exist. No one can achieve perfectionism, in any aspect of their life or talent. And while it may look like people can, from the outside looking in, there is always room for people to grow.
The trick is to abandon the idea that you need to be perfect in anything and instead embrace the chaos that is this life. Life is messy, disorganized, chaotic, and so much more, but it is within that very chaos that real beauty, real art, and real impact actually live.
So to whoever is reading this… in regards to whatever you are trying to be perfect at, regardless of if it is just living life like being a good parent, child, teacher, or student or a form of art like photography, painting, writing, makeup, acting, and more, or a discipline like academia, science, mathematics, etc. Remember this…
Perfectionism has destroyed more good things than it has ever created. Embrace the chaos. You deserve to exist.