This was a realization that hit me this week as I sat at my desk, surrounded by my work – the stuff I do to pay the bills, and the stuff I’m doing for me and you. I’m writing, teaching, and digging out a corner of the Internet with this blog. And every piece of this work is only shipped because I have wrest it from the grip of my ego, which has made every effort to convince me that whatever it is, it’s not good enough yet.
When you think of a perfectionist, it’s difficult not to conjure up an image of an A+ student who leads a Jonesian quest for extra credit every semester, or Martha Stewart in her heyday, before the jailtime and weed smoking with Snoop. But there is another strain of this virus (timely metaphor achievement unlocked!) that goes largely undetected. It gives your mind – that thing that protects you from harm via the unknown – the greatest solution to any challenge:
Those afflicted with this virus participate only when they are certain to excel. To them, if they can’t be the best in the game, then there is no point in playing. I sometimes call this “predictive perfectionism.” I like to call it that because alliteration is a useful tool in keeping people engaged in short-form essays. Like this one. You’ll get more of these tips in an e-book I should probably write. But not right now. Let me wrap this up.
When we’re sick with the pursuit of perfection – the totality of it all, the exhausting demand to be great at everything – we tell ourselves that “is not worth it,” and ask “what’s the point?” But when we see this in others, we often “hope” that they will one day get their life together. To realize their potential. To stop “being lazy.” Even when we want to quit trying, we don’t let the rest of the world off that easy.
But we could all use a break, couldn’t we?