PERFECTIONISM IS A FLAW
“Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong. By doing so you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.”
Once, I had a chance to attend a Self –Awareness and Personality Development program. The program was organized by M.G.L. Institute, a government organization at the behest of local employment exchange. There were about 25 people who attended the program.
There were some reputed academicians from different fields like Civil Service, Education, Human Resource and Social Service. First of all, the program organizer gave a welcome speech and informed us about the aim and the intent of organizing the program.
After his speech concluded, an employment officer from the employment exchange explained us in detail the whole job market scenario and also made us aware about various opportunities in self-employment. He informed us about the various types of self-employment opportunities which were lucrative and respectable as well.
Then a lady Professor from the Institute gave a very inspiring speech on self-awareness. She focused on how to know ourselves and our potential; how to develop and improve our level of confidence. Her speech was very useful and it was so inspiring that it generated a new wave of brimming confidence in me.
Next was a lady Principal of a B.Ed college who also gave real life examples on the importance of having good level of confidence. As always I attentively listened to them and tried to grasp everything. Then she conducted a personality test in which there were about 30 questions with four options each. Apart from that there were three questions which required answers in about 100 words. I answered the questions as per my understanding and knowledge.
After the test, it was time for results. Before declaring the results of the test madam said, “There is nothing like pass or fail for this test. There was no right or wrong answers as such. The intention was to know your personality and to identify whether any of you need help or advice pertaining to development of your personality or attitude.” I was bit surprised when they singled out results of two persons in which I was the one of the two. They considered others to be normal. These words made my heart sink as it was kind of shock to me because that meant I was different from them and how! Then the Principal took over to give the explanation.
She told us that we (i.e. I and there was the other guy sitting adjacent to me) were perfectionist. When I heard those words I didn’t know whether it was positive compliment or negative one.
She continued, “Look, it is good that you seek perfection in your work. To strive for perfection is a good thing. But have you ever thought that in order to make your work perfect you sacrifice time? Sometimes we need to do the work as per strict schedule where time and quantity is more important than quality. You compromise on time for quality and perfection. But you should realize that there should be proper balance between quantity and quality.”
I began to realize that what she said was absolutely true and relevant in my case but I was not aware about those things until now. So I continued to listen attentively.
“Moreover, you lose not only quantity when you strive for perfection. You keep yourself always on the edge and unhappy with yourself. You remain stressed regarding your work thinking whether the work you did is perfect or not. You think your work should be so much perfect that no one should be able to find fault or error in it. This thinking affects your productivity negatively. Instead of thinking like that you should just do your best and set the high standard of work without thinking about others. You have to accept sooner than later that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. And no one is perfect in this world. Be confident about your work and think that as long as you gave your best it is good enough. As Les Brown says, ‘Perfection does not exist - you can always do better and you can always grow’.
Perfectionism can be detrimental to your confidence too. Besides, there are many situations which are beyond our control which may come in our way to do the things perfectly. All of us are prone to make errors. To make mistakes is not a shameful thing or something bad as long as it is not due to our carelessness or foolishness. So in a sense Perfection is a flaw when it affects your confidence, capability and effectiveness negatively.”
Then she took out the answer sheets in which we wrote descriptive answers. She began, “The aim of the first question was to know how you feel about yourself and how much you know about your personality; the second question aimed to find out what is your attitude towards and thinking about the people around you; the third one was aimed to know what you know and what’s your outlook towards the society as a whole.”
Again she separated the answer sheets of two of us. Then she proceeded referring to us, “You two are very similar in personality and thinking. I’ve already discussed your personality traits. So far it was fine that you were perfectionist at your own level. I mean you were seeking perfection within yourself. But from the descriptive answers it seems that you seek perfection from others too especially society as a whole. Though it’s good to know that you appreciate and accept the limitations of the people around you, you want the country or a society to be perfect. It is quite possible that such thinking could be the result of your overall general awareness level and your education. You seem to be quite vocal or concerned about social issues, if I’m not mistaken.”
She just paused for a while to drink water, then after a moment she resumed, “Again there’s nothing wrong in thinking like that. In fact, I must congratulate you for being so concerned about the society. Now the problem is that society consists of a huge population with people having varied mindset, understanding, background, culture etc. You must have experienced that sometimes it becomes too difficult to bring consensus on certain topics within a small group of 10 people. Similar is the case with the countrymen. It is very difficult for a single person to bring remarkable change alone. Different group of people have different thinking, different views, different feelings and it brings strong contradictory responses. Let’s assume that we are successful in bringing consensus, but the most important thing is that there are numerous external factors (natural or otherwise) which sometimes are beyond one’s control. You must realize and accept that. World keeps moving and you should move forward with it. Keep doing whatever you can for the benefit of society. However small your contribution may be, just be satisfied with whatever you did.
Sometimes in cricket we see that the batsmen who keep gathering single runs are able to make a perfect score. And the one who aims for huge score from the very first ball perishes early without contributing much. Social change can be brought in a similar fashion. We can’t expect it over-night.
As Leo Tolstoy says, ‘Moral perfection is beyond reach but this is the law of human life.’ Utopia exists only in an imagination.
Last but not the least; remember a Chinese proverb, ‘Were I to await perfection, my book would never be finished’.”
Madam ended on a lighter note, “Whatever I just said is for these two guys and not for others. Otherwise you may start to take things lightly and it may happen one day that we have to conduct a lecture for you on how to be perfect.” And all broke into a light round of laughter.
Since that day I kept each and every word in mind and tried to change my perfectionist attitude. I’ve been able bring about change in myself and am still trying my best. There is still a strong element of perfectionism in me, but I never let it affect my confidence and capability in a negative manner. I also keep one thing in mind that as a human being I’ve the right to make mistakes unless it’s deliberate.
“Sometimes we strive so hard for perfection that we forget that imperfection is happiness” – Karen Nave
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