Do any of you ever struggle with the feeling that you need to be perfect? Or something you have to create needs to be perfect? I do. And pretty sure it’s not just me. Scroll around the internet a bit and you will inevitably run into plenty of experts telling us all to give ourselves a break – we don’t have to be perfect. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could actually internalize that and believe it?!
And what is it about the holiday season that adds even more pressure to be perfect? December is a crazy month in any situation – visiting family, hosting dinner parties, crazy schedules, the search of the “perfect gift” all loom out there with their associated expectations. Even the weather is crazy! I’m sitting looking out a window at five inches of sleet/snow mix on the ground in South Carolina. Whatever plans I had for today are put on hold because of something I have absolutely no control over! Even so, I find myself with some time to sit here and write a bit for this blog which I have been avoiding because I was just sure I wouldn’t be able to get it perfect. Sound familiar?
Does perfection somehow mean that we will be less criticized and more accepted by others? That someone important will be prouder of us or love us more? Does it somehow become how we define our worth in this world? Sometimes it does, right? And then the fear of not being perfect and not proving our value freezes us in our seats of insecurity and inaction. I’ve been there. Pretty confident that most of us have been there.
I have to remind myself of that fact regularly – I am not the only who feels this way. We have all felt it. That’s me just being real. Even though there has never been another Melissa Overman, what I feel is not unique to me. We are all on this crazy ride together.
In 2009 I talked my mom into teaching me to knit. Not entirely sure how I came up with knitting, but she knew how and it seemed a sweet thing to have her teach me. We bought needles and some yarn and I learned how to cast on, knit and purl. And then mom went home. I played with it a bit and watched a ton of YouTube videos and knitting is now one of my absolute favorite hobbies! I knit during football, during meetings at work, during concerts. A dear friend gifted me a sweatshirt that says “If I’m Sitting, I’m Knitting”. That’s the truth!
The cool thing about knitting is that it has given me some perspective on perfection. You may have heard of various artisans around the world who purposely incorporate an imperfection into their work? Not me! I worked SO hard to make every stitch of every project perfect. I would rip out rows, sometimes the entire project, just to redo it so it would be perfect. That might equate to literally hours of knitting ripped out because I couldn’t let the imperfection go. Seems kinda overkill, right? One stitch in a sea of hundreds or thousands is wrong and I am likely the only one who will ever see it, but I had to know that it was perfect.
Over the years I have come to terms with some of this with my knitting. If I see a mistake that doesn’t impact the pattern or I can correct it in a later row, I keep going and leave it in. No, that does not happen with every “oops” …but it happens more often that ripping out rows. Now my knitting mistakes are called “design elements”; they make my piece truly unique! And I am OK with that. Guaranteed I am still having to work on not pointing out the mistakes to the recipient or anyone who complements my finished work. But at least the project is off the needles and can be enjoyed!
If it sounds like I’m just taking an easy way out on a pretty insignificant thing, maybe I am. But have you ever found that your dogged pursuit of perfection just messes things up more? Have you found anything in this life that is truly perfect, by whatever standard you are using? I looked. I have watched and waited to see what perfect actually looks like so I could model it. I can’t find it. In fact, most of the things I love have obvious imperfections. Or maybe I should say they are perfectly imperfect? My best friend. My parents. My mentors. Even my dog! We all make mistakes. We are all human – except for my dog. We are all imperfect. And, yet, we are all enough and have a value in this world and to others we may never fully understand.
A very wise woman and trusted mentor from my days in medical training used to look at me and tell me to not let “perfect get in the way of good”. Good is good! It is better than average! Good is attainable and good keeps us moving forward. Needless to say, I still struggle with this but I have her voice in my head competing with all of the others demanding perfection.
There are just over two weeks to Christmas; Hanukkah is almost over. Only three weeks to the first days of 2019. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good as you live these last days of 2018. Enjoy your family and friends. Enjoy the parts of the season that speak to you. Practice letting go of perfection – or of the pursuit of perfection – or the expectation that anyone else is going to be perfect. Take a deep breath and practice being mindful – being in the moment and simply accepting what is there, even the imperfections.
There are so many people who love you, who can learn from you and be blessed by you. Perfection not required. Just be the Wonderfully, Perfectly Imperfect You.
And THAT is the perfect end to 2018.