Most of my life I have battled with perfection. I don't mean that I am perfect in any shape or form, but I have tried to achieve perfection in my work. For some strange reason, no matter how hard I try, I keep getting clear messages that the world is far from perfect and, interestingly enough, that this is okay.
Imperfection is a wonderful way to learn. It is the way we discover new things and new ways of doing tasks that being rigidly perfect would never allow.
As a writer, I encounter a lot of people who are seriously uptight about the use of the English language. I think they expect me to be equally concerned and they chastise me when I dare to start a sentence, or God forbid a paragraph, with the word 'and'. And this drives me crazy.
For me, language evolves. If it didn't, I imagine we would still be sitting around grunting at each other like Neanderthals. Please don't get me wrong, we should all aspire to do what we do with the best of our abilities, but there are times when near enough really is good enough.
Why? Simply because being too rigid and too inflexible creates far more pain and anguish than perhaps the use of a wrong word, or placing an object in the wrong place, or someone turning up five minutes late.
The key is to learn to let go when it is appropriate. If you are an airline engineer working on a jet engine, it is important to get it right. But often the need for perfection is a need to control, which is caused by fear and self-esteem issues. I know that when I was a kid my life had very little safety or control and my self-esteem was virtually non-existent. Because of this, I wanted everything to be perfect as an adult and I would control what I could to make sure this happened.
When your self-esteem is low you clutch to what other people compliment you on. For me, it was my work. I was praised for what I did and the results I got. So I started to take myself far too seriously and, again, my desired outcome was perfection.
Somewhere along the line, I realized that I couldn't control everything and, more importantly, trying to control everything was exhausting. People don't like to be around other people who are that controlling or tightly wound.
Secondly, I realized that my work was a part of who I am, not all of who I am. So I learnt to appreciate positive feedback, but it doesn't rule my world any more.
With these two realizations came a sense of freedom. I could finally relax and accept that sometimes near enough is okay. I still aspire to do the very best job I can, but I don't obsess over it and lie in bed at night beating myself up when I make a dumb mistake.
Instead I tend to laugh at myself, groan if it has cost me money and set about fixing the problem at hand. And then I move on. Some people seem to go through life always swimming against the current. Everything is a life or death struggle and there is a sense of the dramatic surrounding every aspect of their life.
My biggest of clarity with living this way is that the people around you, the ones you love and care for the most, really find it hard to just be themselves if you are busy trying to be the perfect mother, father, brother, sister, boss, employee and so on. Your struggle rubs off on them. In the long run, this means that they may not want to spend that much time around you.
We all spend a lot of time wondering what people think about us. Will they admire us, love us, like us or respect us if we are not 'perfect'? The reality is that they will probably admire, love and respect you even more if you are not perfect, and let's be honest, what other people think of us is none of our business.
Being great at what we do is a good thing. But feeling that we need to be perfect is not. Let your guard down, be human and be real and you will stop beating yourself up, and those around you will be more inclined to connect with you at a deeper level, which leads to all kinds of wonderful things.