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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Perception Of Perfection

Today I pulled out the art supplies for my children and asked them if they wanted to design a poster for a contest. As I watched them work, I was struck by their differing personalities. My happy go lucky child dives right in. He sloshes paint and water around. He is happy with the process. He produces many paintings and declares each of them so damn good he doesn't know which one to send in to the contest.

Then I have a child who is paralyzed by the very idea of producing something. He has gone through twenty sheets of paper in as many minutes. Every line he produces on his paper is not good enough. He is critical of all of his ideas. When he does have a good idea he doesn't follow through because he becomes paralyzed by the small details. Nothing is ever good enough.

It is frustrating to watch him. I want to grab him by the shoulders and give him a good shake. "Get over it. No one is perfect."I want to say.

He reminds me of myself.

How often in my life I sit where he is now. How often I do nothing, not out of laziness, but out of fear. I mean, what is the point of doing something if you can't do it perfectly. Perfection, however, is paralyzing.

I have an opportunity to do something that I really want to do, and I am blowing it. And I know I am blowing it, and yet I feel paralyzed.

Why? Because it is easier to give the excuse that I am busy with my kids, my house, my life than to put forth the effort and be rejected. It's easier to tell myself that I needed to scrub out my kitchen sink with the green scrubbie pad and bleach and then take an old toothbrush around the edges where the edge of the sink meets the counter. Or that I needed to go through my clothes drawers and take out all the things I no longer want and put them in a pile for Goodwill. It's easier to type this up for my blog. Or a myriad of other excuses with which I attempt to console myself, as I let this opportunity slip through my fingers.

I haven't even told my husband about it, because I don't want to disappoint him with my failure to follow through. Because after 11 years of marriage I still feel like he is sticking around until someone better comes along, someone more perfect. Yes, I'm crazy. Don't you wish you were married to me?

Last night at the boys' baseball game I was talking to one of the mothers when she came to pick up her son. She wanted to thank me for sharing my husband with the team, which was very sweet of her. Then she said, "But you have it all under control. You are so perfect and composed all the time. I don't think I have ever seen you flustered or lose your patience. You are so together... I bet everyone says that to you."

I had to look over my shoulder to see if there was someone standing behind me that she was talking to. I answered, "Only people who don't know me very well say that." I am nothing if not self deprecating. Look at me, I can't even accept a compliment gracefully. She laughed and said she knew that wasn't true.

But it is true.

My son just held up a painting, "Now this one is the bestest one yet." I resist the urge to ask about the big scribbled out area on the upper right quarter of the paper. He doesn't even see that huge glaring mistake on his paper, that imperfection. The rest of the painting, which is quite nice, cancels that out for him. Perhaps that is perfection after all.

How I long to be like my 6 yr old. To slosh about in the paints, have fun with it, and be happy with the results, imperfections and all. To get messy with life.

I'll tackle that opportunity I have been putting off as soon as I finish typing this and cleaning up the kitchen. Oh and the vacuum isn't working and I really need to vacuum, so after I fix that. Oh and the laundry needs to be put away. So I'll have to tackle it later. Tomorrow at the latest. Really.


Blogger TBG said...

Great go out there and do what you know you want to do. Put failure out of your mind, do the best you can and that is all in the end that matters, Trying and failing is better than sitting out and wishing you had tried. Go for it you have absolutly nothing to lose.

12:40 PM  
Blogger stephanie said...

We all do the best we can with whqt we have. And the fate of the western world does not rest on this. So go for it! You have nothing to lose:-)

1:04 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I'm exactly the same way. In preparation for my daughter's first birthday, I got out the bleach and cleaned the frame of the kitchen window and organized the garage. Who was going to see these things? God forbid if they noticed and I hadn't taken care of them. What kind of filthy pig would I be in their eyes? Procrastination if every perfectionists best friend and worst enemy.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

That is totally something I would do too, get caught up in some detail.

While I conciously *know* that the world will not end should I fail at something, it isn't easy to move past it. Such is the curse of perfectionism.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

I also am paralyzed by fear even when I know I'm really good at something. I'm so picky about a mistake I've made that I'll wait to finish a project I've started.

My daughter and husband are my exact opposites. They like to play in the mud and get dirty. They like to get lost in things and have fun. I, on the other hand, am always worried about consequences and in making the wrong decision.

I need to follow the example of my husband and daughter and soak life up instead of just waiting around to be inspired or motivated, or thinking of other easier ways to use my time.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Sleeping Mommy said...

My oldest and I both have this problem too. I get so frustrated with him over it and yet he's only mirroring back what I gave him in the genepool.

Just saying I know where you are coming from. Hope you tackle the fear and take advantage of that opportunity.

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can relate ... I have one perfectionist who agonises about every decision - takes after me - and two who plunge in and love what they create. Good luck with the opportunity - I hope you jump right in and have fun with it.


5:13 PM  
Blogger lipstickface said...

well....what is it? Whats this opportunity?

I dont have any children, but i have a nice child sized ulcer from being a perfectionist and constantly feeling inadaquate. But people keep hiring me, so I must at least be good at fooling people into thinking im qualified.

I dunno - Id rather take a shot at it and fail than suffer regret.

please tell us what it is! Does it have something to do with writing? Because you are REALLY good at that - and you couldnt fail. That and motherhood - you excell at both.

You should write a book. Is that it? Did you get a book offer? C'mon! TELL US!!!

5:38 PM  
Blogger MamaGeph said...

At least, with a mistake, you know what needs to be fixed. I am frightened of the blank canvas because the mistakes aren't made yet. I don't know where to begin.

Your perfectionist streak at least explains that tiny waist!

7:35 PM  
Blogger Bernadette said...


8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brillant, talented, fabulous?”
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in ALL of us.
As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

–Marianne Williamson from A Return to Love (made famous by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 Inaugural Address)

I am constantly battling with this "fear" issue. The above quote is so inspirational....don`t you think?

I LOVE your blog. You are funny, interesting, and an inspiration to me, a mom raising two kids in Japan. Thanks!!


8:21 PM  
Blogger aka_Meritt said...

Oh Yeah, I hear ya. That's me too. :)

And the quote above? One of my favorites. I have a copy (worn and frayed) taped to my computer station. I like it.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

who knew the answer was so simple.

I think that would just be one more thing I would never get around to doing and then feel horribly guilty about it everytime I saw the yoga mat staring at me from the corner collecting dust.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Laurel said...

Are you a distant twin of mine separated at birth????!!!! I didn't know that there were people who could literally travel through the air, climb into other people's heads, find out what their brain was thinking, and then transcribe it onto a are a VERY talented woman!!

Seriously, I have never heard anyone describe the "paralysis" of perfection so aptly. My oldest daughter unfortunately gets it from BOTH parents...I pray for her SO much. And then my younger one just dives in and doesn't worry about making mistakes beforehand.

If it WAS a book, I sure hope you GO for it...I'd stand in line to buy one!

9:40 PM  
Anonymous joel said...

I wrote about my life and all that I have had to go through, I also ended that story with a little bit about how my life has changed, but I want to take it further.
Link to this site: music inspiration

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

free light house picture

3:54 PM  

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