I wrote a blog about the facade of being perfect six years ago. It is below these words of wisdom I recently read in The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. Her insights about artists and perfectionists are applicable to anyone and life in general.
Julia says, “Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop - an obsessive, debilitating, closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details.....and to lose sight of the whole.”
She adds, “The perfectionist writes, paints, creates with one eye on her audience.
(Or one eye on the boss in the case of business) Instead of enjoying the process, the perfectionist is constantly grading the results…..The perfectionist is never satisfied. The perfectionist calls it humility. In reality, it is egoism. It is pride that makes us want perfection”…..
“Perfectionism is not the quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough - that we should try again. (Or no one is good enough for us, so keep on searching).”
Julia further comments, “A painting is never finished. It simply stops in interesting places. A book is never finished. But at a certain point you stop writing it and go on to the next thing. That is a normal part of creativity - letting go. We always do the best we can by the light we have to see by. “
The same could be said about anything in life. We do the best we can by the light we have to see by. There is the figurative light but also the light of knowing. At different points in our journey, our inner lights shine based on what we have learned and experienced in our lives. The painting accompanying this blog is another of mine that I share with you. It is far from perfect, if I am wearing my art critic hat. Yet for this point in time, it is perfect. It was done with the light of my life’s experiences and my beginner's painting skills.
Perfection and Facades (blog from 6 years ago)
From the time I entered grade school, my “thinking cap” was securely on my head and on high alert. I raised my hand so fast with answers that it became a game for others to try to beat me. Rarely did others succeed. Not that I got called on by the teacher all the time, but my hand shot up knowing the answer every time. My challenge at that time wasn’t knowing the answers.
As my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Wallman, reminded us often, “anything worth doing was worth doing well”, and to her that included silence from her students, unless called on. Now for me, That (silence) was a challenge!
The first row, first seat in our classroom was reserved for the “Best” among us. 100% correct papers were required, and that part was pretty simple for me. I was lucky enough to have a last name that started with a “D”, and that gave me pretty good positioning to start out. So, I rather quickly moved into 1st Row, 1st Seat “Best” status.
That is, until 1st Row, 2nd seat, Peter poked me in the back, and I turned around to ask what he wanted. Mrs. Wallman snapped to attention as I turned in my seat and quickly proceeded to inform me that I had to move out of my cherished spot for talking. Usually this talking mess-up meant going to the back of the row I was currently in - so back of the 1st row.
But, such an ‘injustice’ to me warranted argument and telling my teacher just how unfair she was being and advancing my insistent plea of innocence because 'it wasn’t my fault that Peter poked me'. I’m not sure just how brazen I became, as my memory recalls much more of Mrs. Wallman’s penetrating looks and pointing with her finger to show me which seat I was now entitled to take - and thus I was booted to the last row, last seat. Arrrrrgh, I was so angry with her.
Not a quitter by nature and with a ‘born in me’ determination beyond reason, I focused on working my way back to “perfect” and that revered seat in the front of the room. Each day I controlled my natural talkative and playful self to prove to Mrs. Wallman that I was the ‘best’ in the class. I realized in those first few months of first grade, that if I worked hard enough and did exactly what I was told, that I could be “perfect” and be in Row 1, Seat 1.
Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be surprised that I worked my way back to “perfect”, only to bounce in and out of that seat numerous times that year. I’ve always liked to talk. Though never again did I return to the last seat, last row. My arguing and my standing up for “injustice” were held at bay the rest of that year.
The takeaway that was decided by little Mary in first grade was that “perfect” was indeed possible. I also decided that I wanted to be “perfect”, and that if I worked very hard and did exactly what I was told to do, that the end result was “Perfect”.
I have chased perfection my entire life. Not altogether a bad thing, since that striving for perfection led to high grades, numerous awards and accolades, high achievements, high level positions of leadership and accompanying salary - AND very high expectations for myself and for others.
I also lived my life with a “Perfect Facade” shown to the world, while having inner feelings of ‘never being quite good enough’. I knew all my imperfections and was fearful that if others looked too closely, they’d see the real, less than perfect Me that existed behind my own Wizard of Oz curtain.
Luckily for me, I’ve experienced transformation through my taking the weekend immersion of Landmark Forum. My past hasn’t changed. It will always be my past. Though I now realize that “What happened?” and our stories about What Happened? are rarely the same. So, to be a little more accurate, my version of my past will live on. The transformation comes from my perspective having changed and my focus being much more on the present and actions of today that can impact the future.
Why does any of this matter to you? I am sharing as I work to figure things out - even though Landmark basically debunks our need to keep ‘trying to figure it out’ and urges we keep taking action instead of thinking about it so much.
With that said, and I agree on Landmark’s point. For those of you who are ‘trying to figure it all out’, sharing my stories and experiences and what conclusions I’ve come to for me…just may be the advice or message you needed to hear today.
Much has transpired in my life since that blog post was written, and those recent lessons and experiences have added to my understanding of myself and my nature. Knowing that each day, each moment brings its own version of perfect that we can accept or not. The 'not' alternative is to stay stuck in the details of what we deem as less than perfect, spinning like a whirlpool that never ends. I've spent much time in life's spin cycles, and they aren't much fun.
Let's choose this moment of perfect, exactly as it is! .............and then move on to the next perfect moment.
May you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy,