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The Daunting Task of Being Perfect

March 16, 2010

This week’s words are dedicated to those of you who had great intentions but have still not started this project due to a plethora of reasons. I’m sure they are all good ones and I am not here to discount any of them but I am here to challenge you to make this week be the week to jump in with both feet.

Assuming you’re still interested.

I am loving this project so much that I started getting my son to play along, too. As I’ve already mentioned, I write down three things I’m grateful for each day and as of a few weeks ago now I write two things my son’s grateful for each day, too. It’s become one of our bedtime rituals. If you have little ones, I highly recommend it.

Back to my point, I was listening to a podcast today and some artists were discussing how they cannot start a project because they can’t think of the perfect medium or the perfect time or they don’t have it all planned out yet and so they can’t even begin. I am a big planner, so I totally understand the need to have things figured out before you start but at the same time, I also believe in the power of diving in with both feet. Is it better to have nothing instead of something imperfect?

There are cases where I can see the value of being perfect (or as close as possible). If it’s for a job where you might otherwise be fired or hurt someone (like a doctor might). If it’s something where the goal is to master that particular craft or field etc. I can understand the need to be perfect in some cases.

Yet, I doubt that applies here. When you first heard about Weekly Gratitude and thought it would be a good idea and decided you wanted to play along, why did you want to do it? I imagine some of you thought it would make you more aware of how great your life is. Others thought it might be an exercise in mindfulness. Or a good reason to create regular pieces of art. Or make a little minibook.

I just can’t imagine you thought, “Well if I don’t do this perfectly, it will have been a complete waste.”

Seriously?

I think most people strive to be perfect because they think others will judge them if they are not. Let me tell you a secret: no one cares if your art isn’t perfect. No one cares if you didn’t spell a word correctly. No one cares if your lines are a bit crooked. Well…maybe a few people do. But those are not the kind of people you would like. No one actually spends any time looking at someone else’s work in detail and tearing it apart. Only small people do that and you don’t care what small people think. Trust me, you don’t.

So if you end up not doing your project because you’re worried what others will say, do you know who loses in the end?

Yep, you got it.

You.

You lose. Because while they won’t even remember your name a week from now, you’re the one who let that get to you and didn’t practice gratitude. Didn’t do art. Didn’t go for something you wanted just cause someone, somewhere might think you’re not perfect.

Sorry to make you mad but let me tell you: You’re not perfect. You’re not. Neither is your neighbor. Or the person whom you admire online. Or the “famous” person you wish you could be like. Etc etc. No person is perfect. Not to mention perfect is a moving target. The closer you get to it, the more flaws you see, the farther it gets. You never reach it.

Nor should you aim to.

I’m not one to tell you what to do in your life (even though I just did a bit) but I do have a challenge for you. If you’re one of those people who hasn’t started this habit because you haven’t found the perfect way to do it or the perfect album to put it in, I challenge you to throw all that out the window this week. Just pick a way and do it. Jot it on the back of your grocery list. Record it while you’re driving. Whatever, I don’t care. Just take a moment to be grateful. (This goes for those of you who started the project but haven’t done a thing for weeks, too. You haven’t failed. You can pick up and move on. You don’t have to go back and fill in. Just move forward. I promise, there is no WG police to come get you.)

Perfectionism can be a good drive for some people. An excuse to thrive and aim higher. And, in those cases, it’s a valuable tool. But for most people it’s crippling. It’s what stops you from functioning or accomplishing. In the case of this exercise, it’s possibly stopping you from feeling better. From realizing the good in your life.

Isn’t it worth it to let it go for a few weeks and see if you can enjoy being grateful?

Let me reiterate: there is no right way to do this project. Just do it. There is no right time to do this project. Do it now. Try taking a moment everyday for a week and write down one thing you’re grateful for. Don’t pick a format. Just write it down wherever it feels convenient each day. Say at 10am. Wherever you are at 10am, pause for one minute, grab a pen and write it down on the first piece of paper you can find. Just try it.

Maybe one week is not enough to reap the benefits, I don’t know but I hope you’ll try. I hope it will be the push you need to let go of the daunting task of being perfect with this and just doing it for the joy of practicing gratitude.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Debi permalink
    March 16, 2010 10:35 am

    Good post Karen! I know for me… getting started IS the hardest part. And… I do believe it IS the *perfection* that I’m striving for, and the fear of messing up if I don’t have a good plan to get started, that keeps me from starting.

    I chose to buy a cute little K & /Co. journal to just start writing in. I decided that if I tried to plan out how I wanted today’s page to look like, it kept me from actually getting my gratitude thought down on paper. Now I just write whenever it strikes me…. ALMOST on a daily basis, but sometimes I’ll go a week or so before I take the time to write things down. I do date my entries cuz this is turning into so much more than just the things I’m grateful for. I’m finding that looking back to January’s entries, there’s tons of memories of my life written down. So cool!

    When my muse whops me over the head, and I get in that creative mood, I just look through my journal and choose the entries that I feel like putting into my Artsy Gratitude Journal. It’s kind of like the best of the best journal…. and I LOVE that!

    I still have my day to day entries of things I’m grateful for, AND my *best of* journaling in my pretty book. Kind of like doing a *My Favorite Photos* book, but using my grateful journaling instead of photos.

    I’ve decided that I don’t have to show every page or entry, so I don’t think too much about what other’s will think, so that feeling of needing perfection is in the past. (I think that came about back in the days when I was designing for the mags and posting to 2peas, looking for validation)

    One thing I can say is, after writing in my journal for 2 1/2 months now, I kinda am in a habit of wanting to keep it going and writing more things in there that I’m grateful for.

    My *theme* to my journal is finding the silver lining in every situation. So even when I’m having a crappy day, or have just been given *bad news*, my challenge is to ALWAYS find the silver lining, and write about that. (I even wrote how grateful I am for learning to find the silver lining LOL)

    Thanks for a great post Karen!

    debi

    • March 17, 2010 10:19 am

      I love the idea of writing them down and then having them ready when you feel like creating. I do that more lately and it works really well for me too!!

  2. Lisa permalink
    March 16, 2010 10:23 pm

    Great post Karen. I love how you write, very inspiring.
    Being perfect is not my problem; I’m totally OK with not being perfect. My problem is I’m struggling with a blocked feeling – so I’ve been using items from my list that I created before I started. It’s going OK. The problem is it doesn’t feel as authentic as my other entries. They seem a bit shallow and lacking by comparison. Like I just wasn’t feeling it as much as before. That maybe a harsh assessment on my part but it feels true. Any ideas how to get past this phase (hoping it’s just that)?
    Lisa

    • March 17, 2010 10:16 am

      Lisa, how about writing down 1 thing everyday that you’re grateful for? Just for a week and tell yourself that you can’t use the same one over again. Just one single thing. Then you can pick one from the ones you wrote that week and do the art around that. Would that work? Can you try it for two weeks and see if it does? I don’t want to force you, just if it sounds doable to you.

  3. ginabanina permalink
    March 17, 2010 10:09 am

    I began a “Daily Blessings” journal last fall and was very good at keeping up with it until the past two months. The past two months have been tremendously stressful for me and I had more trouble each day in coming up with blessings for that day until I could think of no more than a half a page worth some days (in the beginning I’d written up to four pages of blessings daily) and these felt forced. I eventually stopped writing any blessings at all down and now it feels as if it would be a chore to grab my “Daily Blessings” journal and begin again. I see more blessings *most* days now, as my life is beginning to settle down, but still it just feels like such an effort to even grab the journal and begin again. I am not sure why this is…

    • March 17, 2010 10:18 am

      Gina, I think it sounds like you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. 4 pages a day is a lot. Some days it might flow but it will feel overwhelming so much of the time (at least to me!) why not just do a list? At least make that the minimum. 1 sentence a day. Maybe 3. Whichever works for you. If you want to write paragraphs full on some days, great but the “required” minimum is 1 sentence. This way, on rougher days all you need is one sentence and you don’t have to feel like you let yourself down. How does that sound to you?

  4. ginabanina permalink
    March 17, 2010 10:25 am

    @Karen – That is a great idea. Thank you.

    • April 20, 2010 4:26 pm

      hey gina, just wanted to check in on you. how’s it going? are you writing your one sentence?

  5. Gab permalink
    April 20, 2010 3:05 am

    What a great post, thanks Karen!

  6. Gina permalink
    April 21, 2010 11:24 am

    I have not been doing it as I should be. My depression was initially the reason when I commented here, transitions tend to bring back the depression, but thanks to meds being modified I am feeling like myself again.

    I am setting myself on a new plan to take walks regularly and plan to begin a new gratitude journal. I will bring that on my walks and write in it each time I take a walk. It was the other day in writing to a friend that I realized just how much I do have to be grateful for. :)

    Thanks for checking in on me, Karen. :)

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