Let go of perfection. It is not the goal, it is not the prize and it certainly is not what will bring you peace in the long run. Perfection is a scourge upon the land, an illness infecting possibility and wonder and the glory of messy and nuanced beauty, which is the only kind, by the way.
Anne Lamott famously said “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping stone just right, you won’t have to die, face anything inevitable. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
Perfectionism keeps you from stepping out, taking a leap, giving something a chance, beginning a work of art. Perfectionism keeps you from resting and stopping and looking back and celebrating how far you’ve come and encouraging yourself that you can keep on going. Perfectionism is insatiable, ruthless, greedy, and abusive. Nothing is ever good enough for it, and it will demand more and more no matter how much you offer up.
Joseph Campbell said: “Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something up.” Nietzsche said: “I tell you: one must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: you still have chaos in yourselves.”
The chaos is part of the design. The mess and the unfinished things and the way parts of it all don’t add up and the way things don’t happen the way they’re meant to. How everything feels almost simultaneously too undone, overdone, complex and just too much – dancing stars come from places like these, not the sanitised and straight lines of perfection.
The secret is that perfection is a myth. Honestly, the more you chase it, the more you’ll miss the wonder and the miracle of where you are and who you are, even in the midst of all that is or isn’t happening. It’s perfectionism that’s made you believe that this isn’t enough. Time to let it go, give it its notice, close the door on it; part ways with perfection.
After all, the point of The Work, of showing up to your life, of being here now, is to connect to all the spaces as they give you room to do so to find the healing and the wisdom and beauty and often, just the fun, of being alive in the world.
All the fragmented pieces of the universe; the chaos between our countries and ideals and religions and ethics, the mess of our towns and streets and homes and hearts; they’re not longing for perfection. More than anything they ache to be reconnected back into the heart of things, back into each other, back into that wild and dynamic place of peace.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said: “Spirituality is allowing compassion and love to flourish. When belongness begins, corruption ends.” When perfection looms and gives its critique and demands more from you, do not bow in submission, press through the fear of not being enough and raise your head, open your eyes, and show perfection the power of your mess and chaos, of what happens when you break old and stiff things up, of how that dancing star is being birthed from you even now, in all its painful, bloody, miraculous, glory.
Words of grace and healing from Liz Melani, the Practice Co. This weekly series is called Doing The Work. Here’s a mindful prompt: Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. Connection is your true purpose, so let the chaos get to work creating and connecting and making miracles from your mess.