Getting Around Perfection
"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." ---Salvador Dali
We don't have a lot of choice in the way we think. Not really. Life is a series of experiences, the vast majority of which we have no control over. Life just rolls right along without stopping to acknowledge us. The times we do have a say in what happens in life are few and far between, and for most of us that doesn't even get started until after we leave home for the first time---for some of us it takes longer still, longer to understand who we've become. But well before that time, our brains have already been formed. Strong connections have already been established in our brains, making us timid or brave, sociable or introverted, and so on. Some people are too needy. Some people are too greedy. And worse: some people get it in their heads that perfection is what it's all about. Perfection. That sweet idyllic metaphor, humming with the unseen rhythms of the universe, that one pure note of absolute mindfulness to which the very insects tune their lullabies on crisp moonless nights beneath the stars.
Hogwash! There's no such thing as perfection. Not really. Even if there was, would you really want that? At what cost? Yes, we can achieve sublime moments when everything seems to work out, and we might take a pause in those moments (if we are lucky) to acknowledge the "perfection" we have achieved. But those moments are seldom appreciated, and, sorry, it's not really perfection. This is what I think. I think perfection (or the perfection-obsessed mind) is an obstacle. It is in the way. It halts creativity. It stunts growth. It prevents people from learning and improving. Yes, a perfectly executed work of art is a thing of beauty---I'm not saying that can't or shouldn't be achieved---but the approach must be done in a healthy way. Perfectionism is a mind-trap. It is a mad cycle of desire to succeed, fear of failure, anxiety over the smallest mistakes, and finally, when the perfection hoped for has not quite been achieved, an ultimate letdown.
"For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. It's a fast track to unhappiness, and perfectionism is often accompanied by depression and eating disorders. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation. And love isn't a refuge; in fact, it feels way too conditional on performance." ---Psychology Today
So how do we get better at getting better without the perfectionism baggage? I answered my own question there: without the baggage. Leave perfection to the insects---let them have it, and all the problems that go with it.
Practical steps? Here's an idea: take some paper or canvas or surface of your choice and some pens/paint/charcoal/etc, and practice shutting off your brain for a little while. Close your eyes and maybe start by drawing or painting a circle---just quickly, without thinking about it. Okay, you can look at it, but then close your eyes again and repeat the circle thing. There, you've done it---two circles. Is it perfect? (if so, you may not be human; if not, congratulations, session complete) What comes next? I don't know---I'm not the boss of you---keep doodling, perhaps. Find some way to be creative without relying so much on your brain. Over time you'll develop new pathways in the brain---or maybe not (I'm not a doctor)---you will find your way out, I'm sure of it. Meanwhile, don't sweat it. You're doing fine. You are perfect just the way you are.