What is perfection really? It is a stubborn mistress that we court, but are never quite found good enough for the Ball. Perfectionism is different from striving to be better, because that is a competition with ourselves. Perfectionism is more about proving/convincing to yourself and others that you are good enough. It’s a stifling and oppressive way to live life. It is often much safer to not go for it, and say I am not going to even bother because it won’t be good enough for insert your favorite excuse here (usually yourself when you really dissect the reason). The threat of rejection and disappointment are far greater than the reward of showing the progress of discovery. This is some of the most self-destructive things people can do to themselves, not including bodily harm. The void of rejection catapulted my self-esteems issues even further because I didn’t think I was even worthy of presenting my skills if it wasn’t perfect.
Perfectionism is like having to pee in the middle of the night. Stay with me here, I agree it’s an odd analogy. You are slightly uncomfortable with the pressure, but you are so warm and cozy in your bed you hate to get up. You’d much rather stay under the safety of the blanket until it becomes too much and you give in. Except there is no safety blanket, and eventually you choose to show yourself and your talents to the terrifying world. Or you pee in the bed, and shrink into self-loathing.
Take this entry for example, I had so many good ideas and lines when I started the concept, but I can’t think of a single one. And they were good. You know what happened to those ideas I had five minutes before writing this? I said to myself, “ooo, I like where this is going. Let me get downstairs and get settled into writing mode before starting to write this entry.” POOF, gone. I could have written them down where I was, but I didn’t. I am going to publish this anyway to prove a point because this is an important topic for me.
Perfectionism isn’t really about presenting your perfect work. It is using it to hide behind your excuses, self-doubt, and flaws so people don’t know your vulnerabilities and insecurities. To have your “best” self always on display, scared of being judged of not being good enough is a crippling mindset that weighs heavily on every decision one makes. Every decision leads back to “am I good enough to reveal this?” It’s much easier to show something that you believe is your best effort and have them bring judgment, than it is to show a work in progress and have it ripped to shreds (e.g. first draft of a paper). It’s the same with my social media business, photography, writing, paddling, and now art. I used to get ashamed if I swam (it’s where you fall out of your boat in a rapid) while paddling, but it has a become a source of pride because it means I tried something and pushed myself. Fail your way forward.
Roy and I hitting a rock – hard – in the Cucumber Rapid on Yough River. Photograph taken by Ohiopyle Adventure Photography. We kept going.
The projects don’t have to be physical in nature; they can be emotional as well. Or the most vulnerable of all, when it is the combination of both. The vulnerability of art for the world to see, which is always an express of an emotion of some kind, oftentimes gives me the most pause in sharing it. And being completely vulnerable with all of you, my latest self-discovery is how much I like to doodle. I like drawing the lines, the shapes, and all of it coming together to make something kind of beautiful in its own unique way. Art is terrifying to me, so this is a huge discovery.
One of the hardest things I have worked on in the last 4.5 years is to make an effort to kick my self-judgment to the curb. It means you have to confront yourself, which is another entry altogether and discover some of your inner demons. Be real with those closest to you, and I was surprised by the outcome of this. In my experience, I discovered those who truly love me for who I am becoming and embracing my true self. I also discovered those who will always see the old me, and who have a hard time accepting the self-confident version of myself. It can be a brutal wake up call. Give perfectionism an eviction notice from your mind and soul, and be a vigilante when it comes to visit.