On Being A Perfectionist

My tailor Ade is no Deola Sagoe. I am no Deola Sagoe, but I do some mediocre sketching. I like to see a few of my ideas brought to fruition. So I tell him how full I’d like the skirt to be, what type of neckline I’d love, whether or not I want an empire waist. A lot of the time, he gets my ideas, but the clothes aren’t exactly as I’ve pictured them. He always adds something… Or removes something. Most times, he really takes away something. The point is, it’s never exactly what I expect. I used to get upset and make him redo and redo them until they were perfect to me. They never quite were anyway, but then I would wear the clothes and people would love them and want my tailor’s number and all that other complimentary stuff people do. I would always love the clothes some months afterwards, even though they weren’t perfect.

The entire essence of my cool story is that I really like things done a certain way. I am a perfectionist. I often expect people to live up to a certain standard. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having standards, even if they are higher than those of the people around you. There is however a difference between having high standards and simply expecting people to be you. Everyone is different and we all respond differently to various situations. However, no one perfect, not even perfectionists, thus, expecting perfection, even from oneself is the quickest route to a life of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

A perfectionist magnifies his errors and downplays their successes because he does not think his successes are that grand. He hardly impresses himself, doesn’t see how anyone else can be impressed by his work unless it is completely without a hitch. He therefore does not accept criticism well. He feels defensive, tries to maintain the belief that something of his is without mistakes. A perfectionist is afraid to make mistakes so he can take either of two paths: Never try anything or push himself unbearably hard to avoid mistakes at any cost. But what is life without mistakes? Without trying new things and being able to laugh at mistakes? It’s not even living.

So, I started to change things. Take small risks. Do things I knew I wasn’t great at. Laugh at my mistakes. Accept the fact that sometimes people don’t even notice, much less care about the things that leave me worried sick and even if they did, they make mistakes too, so whatever. It is the most liberating feeling to do my best and just be satisfied with that knowledge. Sometimes, our best is not enough, but a dead man doesn’t get to try again, so why beat yourself up over and over about it. Try again. Allow people to be themselves and love them in spite of their flaws instead of spending a lifetime trying to make them what we would like.

There are advantages of being a perfectionist and I’m trying to keep those, eating my cake and having it. Perfectionists get the job done a lot of the time and at those times, they feel a satisfaction that rivals any high. They identify mistakes quickly and they probably make good supervisors and editors. Their scrupulous attitude means that no stone is left unturned and that easily becomes perseverance. The problems only begin when things do not go according to plan. Or when people cannot keep up with them. For this reason, a perfectionist finds it almost impossible to delegate. The quote about doing things yourself if you want them done is what the perfectionist swears by.

I’m a work in progress. I’m learning to look at the clothes Ade makes me as slight modifications and sometimes even better versions of my ideas and to accept his mistakes as what they are. No one is perfect and life is a lot easier when you cut each other some slack; relationships flourish.

Remember, though, that there’s a difference between cutting slack and giving away the entire material. Always remember to draw the line and uphold the right values and maintain the right standards. And sometimes the person who needs the slack is ourselves. So it’s okay to take it easy sometimes.

It’s okay to want to be amazing, but we can’t be amazing at everything all the time. That’s what imperfection means.

Love, Inner peace and Tolerance,