Apr 18, 2017

Perfect Imperfection

Lately I've been thinking over what it means to be "great."  I've read tons of self help books, and memoirs, and quite frequently I have the same thought I'm sure many of you have had, "I'll never do anything this amazing."  My self help books would say it's all in my head and if I really believed, I could do anything, after all, my perception shapes the universe!

Maybe I've read too many self help books lately, or maybe it's my natural skepticism, but I'm starting to think we're looking at this all wrong.  We can't all be "great."  That's like everyone being "the best."  It's a title that can only apply to a select few, our highest achievers, our biggest movers and shakers, and the most impactful proponents of change.

And maybe that's ok.  Why does everyone need to be great?  Why do we feel like failures for having ordinary lives?  I can't help but feel all that time spent thinking about how I'll never be as great a person/designer/parent/whatever as someone else is a complete waste of my life that could be used seeking something much more important.


I've been chasing happiness for the last couple years and I've documented some of my experiments.  Sometimes I get disheartened because I don't feel as happy as I did when I was young, or because I can't seem to get this gratitude thing down, or because no matter how determined I am to make the best use of my time, I seem to keep coming back to these cranky week-long slumps where I'm good for nothing but reading and sleeping.

Maybe it's time to say "good enough."  Maybe it's time to get rid of goals and lofty ambitions that I'm not even 100% sure I want.  So what if I "wasted" a day reading a book or playing games?  Did I enjoy that time?  Maybe that's better use of it than continuing to drain myself being productive when I'm burned out.

Maybe I don't need to be the happiest person ever.  Maybe I don't need to be a high-powered business woman whose at-home start-up launched a nationwide company with hundreds of employees.  Maybe I don't need to create a famous piece of art, or an acclaimed novel.  Maybe I can just be me, chasing small goals and small dreams that make me happy day to day.

I wrote a post a while ago about some pretentious author who wrote about how most people don't need to write yet another book that will end up on the "schlock pile."  I said he was an asshole, made fun of his book about overcoming snobbery (I mean, that's still pretty funny), and then promptly forgot about it.  But I think I'm still trapped a little bit in the mindset that if it's not good, it's not worth doing.

I don't think that about other people.  I think everyone should write a book and self publish.  I think everyone should paint or draw or take photos and put their own art up on the walls, even if it's just some generic painting-with-a-twist beach scene that you did with your friends while tippling wine.  I think the DIY stuff around our homes is what makes them uniquely ours.

I embrace imperfection for everyone else.  But embracing it for myself is difficult.  I spent over a month agonizing on types of scrapbooks for our family.  Because it had to be perfect.  WHY???  No one who looks at it later (if anyone even does) is going to care if it's postbound or 3-ring.  No one is going to look at the paper behind the pictures.

My mom makes gorgeous, themed, uniquely wrapped gifts every year for Christmas and I'm always sad thinking about how the ones I wrapped, despite my gold crepe, and fancy paper ordered from the Internet, look totally sloppy.  I'm just not good at it.  But again, why does it matter???  That paper is going to get torn off in a few minutes (except for my mom's gifts, because they really are a work of art) and then it's all about what's inside.  I'm not good at wrapping gifts.  I'm not good at crafts.  I'm getting better at saying, "Oh well, good enough" and moving on, but if there's anything I do want to perfect, it's my ability to accept imperfections.

With that in mind, I've come up with some goals for myself, and anyone who wants to practice enjoying something for itself, without needing to be perfect.

Jenn's Goals to Achieve Perfect Imperfection

  1. Write your book.  Everyone's got one, I firmly believe it, and I think the biggest reason most of us don't write it is the fear of not being good enough and the feeling of overwhelm.
  2. Make artwork for your home.  Take a pottery class, painting class, photography class, pick the best one and display it in your house.  Look at it every day and remember how much fun you had making it instead of picking apart its flaws.
  3. Run a 5K and walk some.  Go with a friend and chat the whole time.  Wear themed outfits and take silly pictures.  Don't even check your time at the end.
  4. Cook something out of your comfort zone.  Instead of agonizing over what was overcooked, what had too little flavor or too much, or what you should have done, enjoy the meal.  Or toss it if it's not possible to enjoy.  Think about what you learned instead of what went wrong.
  5. Do ANYTHING out of your comfort zone!  I'm too chicken to game with strangers because I'm "not good" at gaming.  (I'm seriously not, though.  I seem to lack certain necessary coordination of the hands and brain and I panic and hit all the keys when a monster attacks me.)  For you it's probably something entirely different.
  6. Write down an embarrassing memory and tape it to the mirror.  Practice laughing at it until it doesn't bother you anymore.  Or if that's too masochistic for you, tape it to a punching bag and beat the crap out of it until you feel like you've beat it into submission.
  7. Leave your clothes on the floor.  For an entire day.  You can do it.
  8. Blow bubbles in a dog park.  This really isn't relevant but trust me.  It's hilarious.
  9. Be your cranky self.  And don't apologize or worry about how you "just can't seem to be happy."  Bad moods happen and being upset about being upset just makes it take longer to get out of it.
  10. Paint your fingernails well past your cuticles.  The extra will peel off in the shower, I promise.
  11. Hit on yourself in the mirror, sans makeup.  You might be a 7 or a 3 or a 5, but who cares where you fall on some bullshit arbitrary attractiveness scale?  Right now, you are the most attractive thing in the room.  Appreciate.
  12. Let a child choose your outfit.  If you don't have access to a child, let your inner child out to play.  Remember how you dressed yourself when you were 4?  It was glamorous.
  13. Read a dissenting opinion.  Don't respond, don't get angry, and don't think about it again, unless it has some value to you or might change your stance on the issue.
  14. Take a day off.  What's the one thing you most want to do?  Go to the spa, eat ice cream and read a book, have a picnic in the park, play video games all day.  Did the world fall apart because you weren't productive today?  I didn't think so.
  15. Don't finish your goals list.  Not even these ones.  Be ok with that.

Let me know if you have any suggestions, and I'll happily update this list!

What's your take on perfection and competition?  Are you able to do things without worrying about the outcome?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design


  1. I so feel this! I don't know how many times I have to hear that "perfect is the enemy of good" or whatever that expression is to get it, but when it comes to me, if I'm not immediately good at something, I'm hella frustrated. Which sucks because obviously, I'm not that good at most things—but I can be really good at some things. But even still, being good at stuff isn't what causes (for me) happiness, but rather, being preoccupied with what I'm NOT good at or NOT doing perfectly is absolutely a happiness thief!

    Some thoughts on your goals...
    1. The thing is, you have to write it with the understanding that your writing it has NO bearing on anyone else's obligation to read it, right? I feel like that's where people get tripped up with stuff like that. Like, it's not a thing unless everyone acknowledges that it's a thing! But no, it's totally a thing because you made it, and your ability to make it and discipline to make it is valid enough. (Read "Big Magic" if you haven't yet!)
    3. Again, I think the perfection/"greatness" idea is the enemy here for so many people. I've had tons of people talk to me about their fitness-related accomplishments like run/walk a 5k, and then IMMEDIATELY draw them in comparison to something else. "I'm really excited about the 5k I just did—of course, it's not a marathon, and that's like the REALLY impressive thing to do..." and I'm just like NO! It IS Impressive that you ran a 5k when it is a thing that took effort and commitment. That fact alone is worth celebrating and being proud of!
    5. This makes me think of a Lucille Ball quote I love -- "The more things you do, the more you can do."
    15. I threw all mine away, for the most part. And omg, let me just say that this Type A lunatic has finally felt free since then!

  2. "I embrace imperfection for everyone else. But embracing it for myself is difficult." This is me to a T. I am the hardest on myself and let everyone else off the hook for their imperfections. But like you, it is something I am working on because no one is perfect. It's taking me a long time realize this but everyone has pain and hurts and wounds and mistakes. We're not all good at everything. Everyone is bad at something; everyone is great at something. For me, I let fear hold me back from trying things because I don't want to look stupid or be too successful. Yup, too much success scares me. I want to do good work that gets recognized, but not too good. I think this is a relatively common mindset for people my age who were taught that too much ambition was bad. Some have fortunately shaken that outdated mindset but mine still lingers. Great post, Jenn!

    1. Thank you! I remember my mom telling me in high school that everyone else was just as insecure and had all the same worries I did and I didn't believe her. I legitimately thought everyone else was confident and had it all together. Now I really do believe we're all just getting by at times and I want to give everyone else the benefit of the doubt and myself forgiveness for my flaws.

  3. I'm such a perfectionist but I love this list. I catch myself completing something or checking it off a list, but then going back and making excuses about how I didn't necessarily do it perfectly or timely or whatever. Which is SO dumb. I did it; I achieved it. Game over. Pat on the back. Move on to something else, Audrey!

  4. I've been thinking about this a LOT lately. Especially since having my little one...I just don't feel like I'm doing as well in any area of life. And momming (loving that btw) is a whole new ballgame. I definitely don't want her to grow up feeling like this, so why is that the example I'm setting? If I want to teach that happiness and gratitude are valuable, I have to believe it for myself. Love your list and ideas on how to do that.

  5. I believe we are all great at something, but it isn't in the same category as someone else's idea of great. If you love to read, maybe you're a great reader. It's for your own satisfaction, not anyone elses. I love the list. I have been doing small silly goals weekly that have some form of purpose, but the world won't end if I don't complete them. I am keeping track of them weekly on my blog and I feel good about it. Last week I challenged myself to go outside every day, even if it were just for a few minutes. It had a purpose to me. I helped me get away from my desk now that I am at home full time working. It's the little things I want to be great at. Thanks for making me remember that.

  6. 'If you don't have access to a child' hahaha.
    seriously, i needed this today. i do not consider myself a perfectionist, but that's because i do not even bother. i do not do crafts or anything i know i am not good at, which is pretty much everything. i am so comfortable in my comfort zone, but then i get disappointed in myself for not trying.. and who cares? we have those paintings from those wine and paint nights and they are awful.. but the nights were fun. i don't know. i want to take more risks but i'm just too scared.

  7. I'm a perfectionist but not to the extent that I would make myself crazy over it, if that makes sense. Like, with the wrapping presents like your mom. I'm really good at it. And even though it takes more time, I make the effort because I know I CAN make it perfect, so anything less (for me) is laziness. Why bother if I'm not going to make it my best?
    But, for things I know I suck at, I don't stress about perfection. I will never write perfect blog posts and follow all the SEO rules etc etc so I don't even bother. I post what I like and I legit don't look at it ever again. So I'm not going to make money off it, so it's not 'perfect', whatever! It's not important. It's all about priorities. Could I eventually dedicate the time to the ultimate perfect blog post (or scrapbook, or eyeliner wing, or photo worthy plates of food?) Sure. But I don't wanna!

  8. I am really glad that I decided to read down my Bloglovin list and not just hit mark as read on everything because I would have missed this post!!! And I really needed this today. I have been feeling like I am failing at everything in life lately. I put 100% of my efforts in to caring for Zoe and have let so many other things go and haven't looked back because I know that it wont be my best work. But the thing is, I dont want to just be Zoe's mom. I want to maybe write a book, or keep up with my side gig and make it a bigger thing, and just be me too. I think you are right in we dont all have to be amazing, and things can just be good enough to be content. I love your list and you have inspired me to make my own!


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