Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Perfectly Imperfect

It’s been 60 days, or more. And I sit, distracting myself with other work, strategy games, non-strategy games, books, papers, posts, cooking, cleaning, weeding, and such, except getting to what I have been procrastinating. My fear keeps rising, self-doubts mount, guilt flares, and resolution sparks, but it dies the next moment I intend to confront the task.  

It’s too precious. Too important. And needs to be perfect. And there, I shrivel right there, hearing that word. My anxiety to be perfect is so overwhelming, it consumes my energy to work on things. I dread even starting it, even attempting it, as my inner voice locks into the phrase - “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all”. And the more I sit, hearing my heart thump and my mind race with fear, the more time I waste, and the more farther I slip away from getting this work done perfectly. Vicious cycle. All I want to do is curl up into a ball and sleep into oblivion. I seem to have imbued my grandfather’s infamous philosophy - If you ignore the problem/task/illness well enough, pretend it doesn’t exist, it will just go away. People go away, but the rest don’t.

This is what the pursuit of perfection does to one. It cripples one from even attempting anything for fear of not living up to the standard of perfection one sets for themselves. I have tried all my life not to succumb to this paralysis, yet, the more I run away from it, the faster it chases me.

This is surely not healthy. I look back and wonder how I even managed to get this far in life. I think most of my turning-point moments were out of desperation, necessity, limited choices, and the absence of an escape route in sight. It’s not heartening to know that my “secret” to being where I am now, is not really the idealism of passion, hard-work etc., but because of fear of not wanting to fail or lose face. Well, there was hard-work involved, but it didn’t stem out of idealistic reasons. Perhaps it is reasonable enough, for life is not entirely made of idealism anyway. But I am not sure I can carry through the rest of life’s journey with this constant anxiety-driven work principle. My passion is rewarding till it meets its matron - perfectionism.

Kind people have offered me words of wisdom and insight. I see the light in their words and thoughts, but still can’t pull out the root of this nagging ailment. But I will have to break out of this. One step at a time. Today is the day. Now is the hour. And I have started...almost started. I will do my best without killing myself. I will not beat myself over not being able to touch the highest peaks of my “best” attempts. For anyway, I never have touched or even graced my version of the “highest” peak - it is infinitely tall and never ending. They say - reach for the stars and you'll at least end up at the tree-top. For people like me, I say - just reach for the tree-top and get there. That's enough.

I begin my task of not being a perfectionist. Of allowing myself imperfection, and shutting my ears to voices real, and imagined. I repeat - Doing “something” is indeed better than doing “nothing”. After all, this blog is a good example - I've continued writing imperfect posts with imperfect language and half-baked, amateurish thoughts, but despite all the imperfection I remind myself of, despite cringing at every previous post, I can't deny that it has been extremely rewarding.

I represent many lessons to be learned - on how not to live life :).


Meens said...

I completely empathize with this :)

May your wishes to imperfect yourself be granted, and to the right extent! :)

Meens said...

And of course, awesome post, again :) Loved it!

SecondSight said...

Two things.
One, what one of my profs used to say about exp. design: "Don't let visions of the perfect get in the way of the good enough."

And secondly, I think most of us go through life achieving things for similar reasons, I've yet to meet a person who did things for the "ideal" reasons. If it helps, there is a book called " The courage to write" by Ralph Keyes- it may not inspire you, but will definitely comfort you about the inspirations of some of the best ;)

Karthik said...

Neeraja, I have struggled with this earlier myself, and sometimes do even now.. I can only think of one thing to suggest, and it isn't anything new - Summarize the work you get done in a few lines everyday. That way, you have solid data to refer back on. In my case, after a few months, on referring back to my notes, it became clear that I had set out with very unrealistic expectations, and I started being easier on myself.

Aparna said...

I represent many lessons to be learned - on how not to live life :) - I can vouch for the fact that this is not true!!! I have learnt so many things from you, and every single one of them is GOOD!! Don't be too harsh on yourself da!!! :) Take care. Have fun.

Neeraja said...

Thank you Meens for your wishes! I'll send the wishes back to you too! :)

Thank you SecondSight - yeah, I'm able to settle with "good enough" with most things except me ;).I'll check out the book too.

Thanks for the practical suggestion Karthik. I should start doing it too - the entries might both motivate me and provide some measure of satisfaction that I did indeed do "something" :)

Thanks for your very sweet and kind words Aparna! I can't imagine what you learnt from me though! ;)

Aparna said...

Came across this on the Presentation Zen website - "You do not need to be perfect. You need only to be resilient. This is the greatest lesson from the bamboo."

By the way, if you have not read the Presentation Zen blog by Garr Reynolds, please do. It has some beautiful facts expressed very nicely! (

Neeraja said...

Hey thanks for sharing the link da... it's a very interesting site, with lots of good lessons :)