64. The Fear of Not Being Perfect

Do you ever suffer from the fear of not being perfect?

I do.

In fact, the fear of not being perfect has been one of my greatest struggles.

My Thursday Afternoon of the Soul, a year and a half of intense depression, occurred partly because I was constantly afraid that I wasn’t good enough.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned impacted me so deeply because I was focused on trying to be perfect instead of trying to help others.

I’ve still got my fair share of qualms, struggles and insecurities, but I’m no longer afraid that God will abandon me if I make too many mistakes.

(That’s a really good thing, ’cause I make lots of mistakes.)

I’m still trying to reconcile myself to the fact that certain areas of my life are less than perfect. Some things are beyond my control: my tragic inability to grow a beard, for example. Other things, things over which I have a little more control, frustrate me because I want them to be perfect and they aren’t.

I wonder how many people have given up on something because they weren’t perfect.

I wonder how many violin players have stopped practicing because their performances never sounded exactly right. I wonder how many painters have thrown away their brushes because they were tired of finding flaws in their paintings. I wonder how many poets have quit writing poetry because their poems were met with criticism or disinterest.

Sometimes it’s best to give up on something. If a hobby is costing extravagant amounts of time, money or effort, and clearly going nowhere, perhaps it’s wise to let it go. But I think we sometimes kill our dreams before they have a chance to grow.

For example, when I write, my greatest hindrance is the nagging conviction that writing is just a colossal waste of time. An insidious little voice whispers, You’re investing so much time and effort in your writing, and for what purpose? Your writing is full of faults. Nobody will read it. Your novel is clichéd. Nobody will buy it. Your blog is pointless. Nobody will like it. There are tens of thousands of better writers out there. You should spend your time doing something worthwhile.

I think pretty much every person has heard that voice. Some people listen to it. Some people refuse to listen.

Blogger Jon Acuff is one of the people who has refused to listen. “The road to awesome always leads through the land of horrible,” he wrote. “Go be horrible at something. It’s the only way to be awesome at everything.”

Web cartoonist Wes Molebash is another such person. “There will be many obstacles on your road to success,” he wrote, “so don’t build your own.”

Amateur animator JKR is yet another such person. “Don’t worry about failing,” he wrote. “You’re going to, and it’s okay. Just learn from whatever you don’t get quite right.”

Perseverance, I keep telling myself, is a much better quality that perfectionism.

I recently saw Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin, and one of its characters offered a wise piece of advice.

“There are plenty of others willing to call you a failure,” he said. “Don’t you ever say it of yourself.”

5 thoughts on “64. The Fear of Not Being Perfect

  1. Pingback: The Joy of Being Free « Life, Art, and Monkeys

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