6 steps to NOT achieve perfection. 

Perfection–We continually strive for it, reach for it, hope for it, sacrifice for it, and sometimes even die still in pursuit of perfection.

It’s one of those words that has a definition, but everyone defines perfection in a different, personal way. Everyone strives for a bar, for that ever dangling carrot–but why? If perfection is a continually receding horizon, why do we chase after it?

Maybe we continually search for it because we had it for a short while, and it felt so good and we felt so complete. Not because it’s expected or the bar set by others, but because we know the possibility of what we can be.
I’m not saying that we should stop striving for perfection, instead we shouldn’t let it cripple us.


LL and I just read and did our first Book Club podcast on Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert–in a section of the book she talks about writing and rewriting her book The Shape of All Things, and how there is a flaw in it, but that if she went back and fixed it, the entire book would change. So she just left it. The book wasn’t perfect, but she would hope in her next project she would achieve something better. She didn’t let it stop her from publishing. Liz Gilbert didn’t let perfection cripple her.

Perfection is irritating because it is so illusive, and once achieved its fleeting. It is either only a moment, or once your own personal perfection is achieved, people look at you and ask what you’re doing next–so a new goal with a new level of perfection is set. My dad models trains. He has had several different layouts–to his defense, he has lived in several different houses. But he continues to build and paint and model…and then after a few years, reconstructs. He achieved an end, and it was perfect or not, but either way he got bored with it and rebuilt. It’s like the pursuit of the perfect train layout is more important–and in a way it is. Dad continues to hone his hobby. His painting skills and details keep getting better, because he is learning new skills or he is finding better products to make perfection.


This scenario makes me wonder if we actually like chasing perfection. We set a goal to reach so we have a reason to keep doing something. We want to become better, have better results. But more importantly we want to fill our lives with something in between the goal setting and the goal achieving. Reaching the goal is great because once there, we realize that we could reach the goal, so we enjoy our moment of perfection and then realize we are capable, or we like the feeling of perfect, and we set another goal.


I work for an event planner and my goal is always to have a “perfect” event. Although, honestly I don’t know what that means. I guess I mean “smoothly run and enjoyed by guests.” Which, in the 11 months I’ve been on the job seems to be the general consensus after each event. However, I always want to do better the next time. I want to have a better script to run by. I want to have more answers to more questions, in case they arise. No matter how perfect an event goes, I want to be better at running them.
This is part of my personality. I do the same thing in acting. When I perform a show, I’m rarely satisfied. Sometimes I when I’m really upset with a performance, I don’t hear the applause at the end, and I feel like I’ve failed. This used to be crippling. I used to think that I couldn’t go do something else until I got this project correct, or figured out everything that didn’t work. But that was stupid–it kept me from continuing my actual growth that I got by DOING.
Life is the pursuit of perfection. No…wait. Life is the pursuit of HAPPINESS. Perfection doesn’t always equate to happiness. So why are we all constantly struggling for perfection?!? Trying to reach a goal is one thing; being perfect is another.

Going back to Liz Gilbert–she just continued through her book and put it out in the world. I do each play, each performance as best I can in the moment and move on to the next. The work, the passion, the filler to get to the goal is the good part, the life, the achievement.
Here are some steps to let go of your need to be perfect:
1) Breathe. Yeah. This is my go to step one, but a really good deep cleansing breath is healing and will assist in refocusing.
2) Ask yourself if you’re trying to achieve a better you or perfection. If it’s perfection, you’ll never get there. Tell yourself perfection doesn’t exist. It’s a myth. Let go of your need to be perfect.
3) Focus on the steps to achieve the goal–how can you do each one brilliantly or to the best of your ability now. With the knowledge you currently have. With the abilities you currently have. With the time and resources you currently have.

4) Research. What did you do differently last time that worked? What didn’t work? If this is your first time, ask around or Google! What products are out there that can help you do better/grow more/ get more done? Knowledge is power. It allows you to face any challenge better. The more you know, the better.
5) Fail. One of my FAVORITE quotes is Samuel Beckett: Ever Tried? Ever Failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

In other words, we get so much out of failure. We understand what can’t be, what isn’t right, what doesn’t work so much better when we fail than when we succeed. Thomas Edison…blah blah, 10,000 tries to make a light bulb, blah blah. Yeah, I’ve heard that one ad nauseam as well. But there is a reason for that: it’s true.
6) Give up the the need to be perfect. Life is messy. Dive into it. Realize perfection isn’t what matters. Because it’s fleeting. Because it’s an ever receding horizon. Because it doesn’t matter.

At the end, there may be a ribbon or trophy or certificate to award your achievements, but those things don’t matter. It’s who you’ve become that matters. Beautiful, snowflake, imperfect you.

Clare

Am I An “Amy”?

I’m reading Gone Girl, and I’m almost done—don’t worry for those of you who are reading it or have plans to see the movie, I’ll talk about the book some, but nothing that gives away any spoilers. I have to admit the book was really difficult for me to read for the first section. I grew up in a small town in Kansas, and I know where North Carthage is. I have been to North Carthage. My Midwestern town seems grossly similar. I also now live in New York—and although I’m not the heiress and namesake of a popular book series (yet), I was feeling a lot of parallels in my own life. Which I’m sure is a point Gillian Flynn is trying to make—are you like Amy?

This fact is almost as terrifying as some of the twists in the novel. Amy talks about being a “Cool Girl” and makes herself a blend of what men think they want—the thin girl who isn’t afraid to eat, likes to be adventurous, and isn’t upset if a guy goes off and does his own thing instead of premade plans with her. There are a few articles out on the subject like this one, that state their viewpoints on “Cool Girl” status.

In the shower, I was thinking of this—I seem to do a lot of deep thinking in the shower, which is a pain in the ass because by the time I get out, I forget the amazing topics I had just brainstormed.  In the shower I wondered if I should shave my legs, but shrugged it off thinking: I’m not sleeping with anyone at the moment, so…why? After the shower, I was thinking about my last few weeks…I’ve been occupied by a relationship of sorts with a man and it wasn’t as engaging as I would have liked it to have been, so I’m moving on. But before it turned the corner, I was out shopping and planning. I bought new razors, thigh highs, and the pretty kind of panties—the ones that after you wear a couple of times just get all frizzy, so you save them in the back of your drawer for “special occasions” and then in a few years clean out said drawer, and end up throwing them away because they’ve somehow ratted up in the back of the drawer, even though they were never worn—yeah that kind. I have all of these things, and am ready “just in case.” Lesley and I had a conversation about this blog, and she brought up that a common complaint people have when dating is that the other person changes after three months of dating, and it isn’t true. People don’t change, they just relax back into who they really are.

I’m a comfort woman, not that I am lazy, but there are things that I don’t care to do, unless its for show. That being said, there are several things I do for myself regularly like wearing pretty smelling lotion, daily mascara, and blowing out my hair. But the myriad of things that I list to do when I think I’m about to hop into a relationship is a bit mind blowing for me. Partially because the list is seemingly long, but partially because I’m so easily willing to slip into a vaguely different version of myself, a better groomed, slightly more sexy, taller (the heels come out) version of myself. Because, in a way, this is what I think I need to be in order to start a relationship. Again, not major changes, but I don’t show up to a first date like I do to daily things.

I’m not just a heightened version of myself only when dating. We all go into different situations where we are a shinier, better, improved version of ourselves. There is a different me at work, there is a different me with certain friends, there is a different me at a networking party. It just happens. It’s when we play into this persona and create even more heightened versions of ourselves that it becomes an issue.

In Gone Girl, Amy confesses that she hates this person who she has made herself out to be, this perfect version of a wife for Nick. The perfect version of a daughter for her parents who are in a cookie cutter relationship. She hates it so much that she doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t even know what it is that she likes. Because she has created this character, partially out of fun and partially as an experiment, Amy makes herself out to be likeable (to which at one point she asks the reader if “likeable is a compliment”) and therefore makes fake relationships with people by being an amalgam of the things she thinks people want to see.

One of my favorite quotes is: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.” ee Cummings nails humanity on the head with that thought. What is the better choice: to be yourself, or to take on who you think people want to you be? Amy says it’s a game for herself to step into these people, these different stereotypes to be more likeable. Feminism says you should stand up and be different than the stereotypical woman. I say: I like fancy undies and heels when I’m out on a first date—heels for the first impression and to give a glimpse at how intimidating I actually am, and fancy undies so if my first impression of you is a good one, I can know that I have a secret I’d like to share—maybe not tonight… but sometime.


I’m not a feminist. I’m an equalist. I think that if you want to let your freak flag fly, then do. If you don’t, well… don’t. Your choice, just don’t hurt anyone intentionally. I think that its fine to be who you want one moment and try on someone else’s skin the next—just don’t get so deep in a lie  that you hurt someone, or worse hurt or confine yourself. If you want to buy fancy undies, or fancy wine, or have a fancy shave, do.

Plans to see the movie tomorrow with my book club, are urging me to finish reading Gone Girl even though my inner voice keeps comparing me to Amy. I think, even though the comparisons terrify me, I know that I’m not like her. Yes, I do try on different versions of myself, but all of them are rooted somewhere in me—I would wear the fancy undies and heels more often if they were more comfortable. But ultimately its not the true me. And when I do put on these personas it is for me—possibly driven by others—but in the end, for me. I’m going to go finish the book now… maybe you should go check on yourself and see how much of your outward self is for you, and how much is for the world… We’d love to hear your thoughts below! (Oh, and I JUST finished the book… I’m NOT an Amy.  Not even close.)

Clare