perfectionism, damn it!

This is a quote from Neale Donald Walsh, whose daily Conversations With God help me enormously.

On this day of your life, Judith,

 I believe God wants you to know…

 …that perfectionism is the enemy of creation.

 John Updike said that, and he was right. He understood

that nothing stops the forward march of any creative

endeavor like the need to do it absolutely perfectly.

Ah, perfectionism!  How well I know you, and how did I ever put you aside?  I was raised in a family which demanded perfection, with the feeling in some of us kids was that not being perfect meant not being loved.  As I believed in High School, where I had a chance to be, if not perfect, extremely close:  band, and my French Horn.  That time, both Mom and Dad were very proud of me, as I remember it.  The feeling was great.

Through college, and my adult life, right up to now, I still expect perfection from myself.  I often misspell a word in a post, but don’t see it, and type up to about 5 words after. Then I see the error.  Do I stop and fix it?  Do I leave it for spellcheck?  Not me; I back up and erase all the words I entered, back to the misspelling.  I did it a few sentences ago, and I’ll likely repeat the mistake, and the unnecessary (I just messed up necessary, and stopped to correct it.)  I believe this is a holdover from my quest for perfectionism, and the practice is so ingrained, I’ve been unable to stop.

In the quote, John Updike talks about the effect perfectionism has on creativity.  That is certainly a true statement for me.  But my effort to be perfect has also affected my daily living; my relationships, my jobs, my depression and lack of self-worth, my status as a grammar- and spelling-tyrant, sneering at anything I hear or read.  Well, not all of them.  I have done very well keeping the tyrant out of the blogs I read.  An example:  on the television, I saw a national cellular company use the word excitedness three times, and I was apoplectic!

The presence of perfection in my life is a curse, and I make an effort not to sound like a know-it-all in these posts.  I don’t always succeed.  I play the acoustic guitar, (chords,) and at least three times in my life, I have tucked it away, because I heard someone better, and despite my efforts, I could not duplicate the fingering.  I mean put it away for years.  What’s up with that?

I do not know how perfectionism affects others, really, but I can and just have attested to the truth of the John Updike/Neale Donald Walsh quote.  Now it’s time to go over my post very carefully, looking for punctuation misuses, as well as syntax and spelling.  I know the computer checks my spelling when I use the spellcheck, but it misses words spelled like other words.  I just had to correct the previous sentence — I wish I could show what I mean! I can’t, and that bothers me — perfectionism of a different nature.  Oh, well.  At least now I admit that I am human, and make human mistakes. But how embarrassing!

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4 responses to “perfectionism, damn it!

  1. I remember a few episodes of “If I Can’t Be the Best, Why Bother” in my own life. We’re the best we can be with the time and level of dedication we have. I don’t have as much time as I used to so being the best isn’t as important as having fun doing the things I enjoy. Look at the fun you’re having now, you’re the best at being you!

  2. Music does present the “perfect” platform for worrying too much about perfection. You just never can get to perfection, and there is always going to be someone better. I can understand that with a military dad and musician/teacher mom the sense that you had to be perfect would be easy to feel.

    I worried a good part of life that I could not be good enough to satisfy my family or anybody. It was not fun but I am glad I learned to work hard and try to be the best I could manage. I believe I am now happier for it than if I had been raised in a bubble of ‘you are so special’. Somewhere there is a happy medium…but even that, if you could define it, would not be perfect.

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