Letting Go Of Perfection

originally posted on my old host on June 22, 2019

My name is Jake LaCaze.

Hi, Jake!

...and I'm a recovering perfectionist.

I'm not really sure how I developed perfectionist tendencies. I don't recall anyone other than myself putting such unfair expectations on me. Perhaps it was all simply a product of being the only child of a single mother before my stepfather came along. Somehow I understood at an early age that my mother had a lot on her plate and that she didn't need any extra worries. And on top of that, I convinced myself that the responsibility of making her proud fell exclusively on me.

I don't know how much substance there is to these thoughts. Maybe I should discuss it with my therapist. She'll be happy to learn about the new billable hours!

Pause for laughter.

Cue disappointment at lack of response.

I may never learn the root of my problem. But I have fortunately identified a problem. And knowing is half the battle, right?

Perfectionism is a pointless endeavor. Let's state the obvious: perfection is unattainable. Your work will always be lacking somewhere. There will always be loose ends. If anything, the discovery of these loose ends is made more painful by your obsession with perfection and the time spent trying to dot every single i and cross every single t.

Perhaps you've heard: Perfection is the enemy of done. It's also the enemy of good. And progress. Pick your specific quote. The point is the same either way. Perfection gets in the way of positive things.

Like your work, you will always be lacking somewhere. You have only so much capacity and capability. You are human, after all. At least I hope you are.

Solitary cough in the back. Die inside just a bit more.

It's interesting to explore the parallels of how you treat yourself and how you treat others. For one, when you expect perfection from yourself, it's easy to start expecting it from others. When people let you down, your unfair expectations may cause the disappointment to hurt more than it really should. Your failures whittle you down to a humiliated mess, so why don't the failures of others do the same to them? How can they live with their imperfect habits and methods?

Also, you may fall into the trap of feeling as if others expect perfection from you. Over the years, there have been so many moments in which I knew I had been less than perfect, and I convinced myself that I'd done the unforgivable and failed to meet someone else's expectations. Yet, so many times, to others my shortcomings were either brushed off or completely unnoticed. In some ways, that should be humbling and make one realize he's not really as important as he thinks he is, but it can take some time to realize that when you're too busy wallowing in the pity of your self-created misery.

Perfectionism is another source of anxiety, which can be useful as long as it moves you to action, but perpetual anxiety is pretty much useless. Overdosing on anxiety wrecks your day-to-day. Life is hard enough. You don't need to help by making it more difficult.

So do yourself a favor and let go of any hope or notion of perfectionism. You're killing yourself over nothing. Your boss isn't going to be happy that you turned in your perfect TPS report two days late. He'd rather your report be damn good and on time. If you're real with yourself, your perfectionism is likely a coverup for your fear of shipping and producing.

The things we dream about and imagine are always perfect, but that's because we always dream about them in perfect scenarios. Real life isn't perfect, so it's ridiculous to expect perfection of yourself or your work. We have to be sure that we are holding ourselves to proper standards.