“I’m never pleased with anything. I’m a perfectionist. It’s part of who I am.” – Michael Jackson
Would it be too cheesy if I began with “you are not alone, I am here with you” and sit here temporarily pleased someone is reading this smiling or laughing? I like thinking that before we go into this I made you smile. That’s important. We’re dealing with some intense things in short bursts, and I always want you to remember one thing. You should have it forever in your mind by now, with how often I say, type it, tweet it, send it. Worthy warriors are never alone.
Okay. On with it.
The Fear of Imperfection
Every day of all your years you have had a fire brewing inside of you. It was once housed in a brilliantly assembled brick mansion, but society has viciously stricken each cinder block. With every crumbled piece of clay you feel a part of you has suffered and been diminished to little to nothing. The more your protective walls are forced away, your level of fear rises. You fear the thought of being seen for who you are or what you think you may be. You start to tear away at yourself like they have, hoping to “fix” what is unseen before it is seen. Suddenly your eyes are too squinty, your nose bugs you, your lips aren’t pouty enough, your hips aren’t narrow enough, your job isn’t what you felt, your schooling could be better, and that guy or girl you went out really isn’t “up to code”. Your work is flawed, what was fun once no longer holds a candle to what you feel you must do now as entertainment. Nothing feels right because you’re seeing the world with eyes that aren’t yours. This is what was “prescribed” to you.
Doctor’s orders. World’s orders.
What began as a notion that you want to do and be the best at what you do, becomes heightened when it’s presented to all around you. The world demands perfection and this programming style becomes so powerful you start to believe fantasy is reality. You forget there is a machine churning out your favorite stars, reality tv shows, sitcomes, movies, magazines, etc. It slips your entire conscience mind that you are the truth and they are the lie. They have teams, you don’t. They have trainers, you tried. They have makeup artists, you photoshopped. They have producers, you man your own ship. They have high priced professionals, you have…well you. That’s the reality mixed too deeply with make believe.
Yet, you remain real even when you try to replicate what isn’t. The brick walls that kept you safe from delusions aimed at telling you that you “look alright, but you could be sexier” or “your work is good, but not quite perfect enough to succeed” or “your hair looks good, but it doesn’t really suite your face let me fix you up”. The intelligent and aware side of you knows most of what you see is smoke, mirrors, and surgery – let’s face it…photoshop too. This idea we have perfection so warped with ego and esteem masking itself within. What would have been “perfect” 50 years is “hideous” now. What would have been inventive is “played out” now. Ha. You’re wondering, “What the hell am I supposed to do when I feel inadequate with every step I take?” I mean…you know it’s bad when people’s pets look flawless. (Did I make you smile again?)
All of the constant contact, all of the Twitter posts, FaceBook updates, Instagram posts are so glamorized it’s like we have become the magazines we used to buy when we were 12 and 13. I’m talking J-14! We built fantasies in Hollywood that some tech savvy folks replicated for us “normal folk” and now we have 12 and 13 years old making duck faces, wearing sexy clothes that I didn’t dream of touching until I was 21. Many other things that cling to this idea that we have to be perfect come to mind. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good and feel positive, but there is plenty wrong when you feel you can absolutely never leave your house barefaced with your pajamas on. I’m serious! You laughed, but this is who we are down to the bear minimum. Two seconds from being as naked as we were when we came into the world. Everything appears perfect, but what about the imperfectly perfect you?
It is true that individuality makes us near perfect. If you cherish the word itself, apply it in its most beautiful form. Always give your best, but don’t let it consume you. Get spiffy and clean up, but don’t fear messy hair and sweatpants. Don’t get so swept up in fantasy that you forget how beautiful you and your surroundings are. Most of us have acne, big thighs, larges waists, big boobs, whatever. It is what it is. We were designed to be different, not a one size fits all dream, but different. We all pause sometimes and discover a million new things to dislike about ourselves or our situation or our work, but we have to learn how to handle ourselves in that moment before we get lost. I rather get lost in a beautiful dream than a nightmare. Let’s conquer this.
3 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Imperfection
1. Power down.
Step away from Google. I repeat. Step away from Google. Get away from your favorite news blogs. Turn off the music. Sit down in the middle of an empty room, and breathe.
2. Adjust your aim.
Make a mental list of what makes what you’ve done great or what your favorite traits about yourself are. Double it. Remind yourself that this is what makes you so unique and wonderful. Focus only on what you know for a fact you can “improve” in a healthy, sustainable, productive way. Do not get lost in the darker side of what you may have felt when you shut everything down.
3. Talk it out.
Odds are that one friend is the one you trust to make you see what you lost sight of. We all have one because all of us, men and women, experience ugly days and unfulfilled assignments. We either feel we don’t look good enough that day or our work isn’t coming out the way we want it to. You know the days! You throw out the same project 100 times and you can’t help but fist pump and growl. Yeahhhhhh. Then when you really look at what you’ve done or what you’re wearing you realize you were in “A Perfection State of Mind” instead of “Plausible and Perfectly Imperfect” mode.
I admit. I call myself a perfectionist. People around me do as well. All it means, when you break down the term perfection, at the end of the day, is… “Doing the very best I am capable of, and consistently outdoing myself for the better, not for worse.”
When you start getting down on yourself, turn to Pat (Power down, Adjust aim, Talk it out). Don’t shut down because you think something you did isn’t up to perfect standards. What is perfection anyway? It’s just an idea of what we assume is “right” but right deals more with moral judgement than appearance and a job well done. You are better than your fear. You were made to be imperfect, flawed, and extraordinary. Accept that even what you think is perfect, isn’t. Illusions. They’re twisted. No pun intended, to the N22 Artist of the Month.