Not every photo was perfectly lit, not every one a masterpiece. But instead of giving into perfection, I just kept going.
Inspired by these two sentences from a post entitled Give Yourself Permission by Shauna Haider of Nubby Twiglet, I submitted this comment: “Lately, I’ve found myself not even attempting certain things for fear that they won’t be perfect. But, I’ve realized that if I never attempt things, they won’t have the opportunity to become perfect anyway. And, if that’s the case, I might as well give them a shot.”
Of course, truthfully, nothing any of us does will be perfect because perfection, for better or worse, is a myth. After all, no single accomplishment can embody perfection for everyone since we all have our own, individual ideas of what perfection should be. Furthermore, even if an accomplishment seems perfect to us at a certain point, our vision of perfect will likely evolve over time, taking our judgement of that accomplishment with it.
Although, initially depressing, the fact that perfection is not truly attainable, doesn’t have to be a tragedy. The myth of perfection can be motivating and inspirational -- a beautiful lie, if you will. We can use it as an ideal for which to strive and, in doing so, we can grow and learn and accomplish our very best.
Even so, while planning and thinking about attaining perfection in our accomplishments can be beneficial, too much of it can become destructive. As described in my comment to Give Yourself Permission, it can quickly become a roadblock set in the way of actually working toward our accomplishments in the first place. And, if we never start work on them, they never have the opportunity to be perfect anyway.
The line between striving for perfection and becoming mesmerized by the idea of it is surprisingly thin and blurry. We often think, “If I just scroll through Pinterest a little while longer.” “If I just do a few more Dribbble searches.” “If I could only find the perfect piece of inspiration. Then, I could start work on my project at last!”
That idyllic bit of inspiration, though, is as mythical as perfection itself since there is always more inspiration to be had. Our Pinterest feeds are never-ending and there is always one more term to search on Dribbble. The possible existence of that ever-elusive, perfect piece of inspiration waiting just around the corner is always present.
At a certain point, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the seemingly unattainable near-perfection of all the inspiration we’ve gathered. Soon enough, the act of gathering inspiration becomes less about being inspired and more about procrastination. It morphs into an obstacle that must be completed before the task of actually working toward our accomplishments can begin. And, since it can never be truly completed, we allow it to take as long as possible — months, years, even a lifetime.
We do this because — in the course of inspiration-gathering — we’ve determined that our accomplishments will never be perfect or even as near-perfect as the accomplishments in our sources of inspiration. Our logic becomes, “Well, if my project can never be perfect, why should I even start?” We allow the mythical ideal of perfection to defeat us before we even begin.
This logic certainly doesn’t foster a good environment for trying new things, growing as a person, or accomplishing anything at all. Though, while this seems like a major problem, it has an almost disappointingly easy solution. At a certain point, as the ubiquitous slogan says, it’s best to throw caution to the wind and “just do it.” Or, at least, get started.
Especially after our marathon quest for inspiration, we need to trust that we’ve pondered and researched enough. Instead of focusing on defeat or inspiration or perfection, we need to crack open our notebooks and put something — anything — on a blank page. From experience, I can say that this simple, tiny action always feels shockingly fulfilling and, after making it, the urge to keep going usually comes quite naturally.
Our accomplishments will never be truly perfect. But, by actually working toward them, we give them the opportunity to be our own versions of nearly that. And, even if they don’t turn out quite right, we can always learn and grow from them. They can become the steps toward accomplishing our own, personal best.
If you’re interested in reading more about our often dysfunctional relationship with perfection, I recently enjoyed “According to Pinterest: How Inspiration (Almost) Killed My Renovation Dreams” and “Creative Mornings and Messy Bathrooms,” both by Kate Arends of Wit & Delight.