Have you ever caught a glimpse of your perfect, ideal self, just beyond your reach?
If so, you’ve likely realized that perfection is a grand mirage, something you think is attainable yet is always just outside your grasp. When you finally get close, you realize it never existed at all – perfection was simply a figment of your imagination, a poison that had been festering inside your now disillusioned mind. Perfection is hot-tempered, and will burn anyone in whose hands it lays.
But there is an alternative to this dream-crushing, life-ruining and ego-shattering illusion of perfection: and that, my friend, is excellence, perfection’s cool sister.
Why is excellence so cool? Well, excellence leaves room for your quirks – you can be excellent in your own way. Perfection is a sort of standardization, and it’s a complete bastardization of individuality, of uniqueness.
If you’re looking to be perfect, you’re really looking to fit in, to the ultimate extreme.
Your mind will cleverly mask your true intentions with a sincere belief that perfection is somehow noble – that being perfect will set a hopeful example for others. But in reality, your urge to be perfect is actually a crushing, not-so-admirable fear of straying outside of society’s expectations of who you should be.
“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.”
― Michael Law
Perfection is boring. You cannot be perfect in a subjective way, and you are not an object to be molded into perfection.
No one wants to go to the “perfect” coffee shop, where everything is exactly as expected, exactly as it should be. The most revered coffee shops are those that are slightly offbeat, perhaps with interesting music and with fresh twists on their lattes. In truth, we are drawn to excellent works of art, excellent places and excellent people – and we are often repelled or disenchanted by perfect art, perfect places and perfect people. After all, what is there to see in the perfect place? It is already what we expected; there are no surprises there.
Not to mention, perfection is scary – it berates you for not meeting its impossible standards, while excellence lies on a friendly trajectory.
Perfection is that nagging, critical voice that beats you up for not progressing fast enough, for not being smart enough or diligent enough. Excellence is encouraging; you can start at the bottom and work your way up, always happy to be progressing.
So, excellence is a growth mindset, whereas perfection is a fear mindset. Perfectionism leads to paralysis – improvement does not count in its eyes. Excellence has kinder, more welcoming eyes, and it urges you to get better every day. Perfection throws its hands up in frustration, saying, “If I can’t do it perfectly, I may as well not try at all. I don’t want to embarrass myself”. While excellence can feel disappointment at times, that disappointment is quickly replaced with a vision for tomorrow and for years to come; it is replaced with the prospect of becoming more capable over time.
Excellence celebrates your small successes, and gives you the leeway to choose how fast YOU as an individual need to go, not how fast you need to go relative to society as a whole.
The sad reality is that when we cling to perfection, we never attempt anything outside of our comfort zone. But if we know that one day, through sufficient practice, we can achieve excellence – that is when the world becomes our oyster.
“Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think?”
― Brené Brown
As with everything, the choice is yours: will you be a captive of fear, or a pioneer of freedom? Choose excellence, and you will be freed from the fetters of perfection.