For much of my life I had been a perfectionist. And I suffered for it greatly. So often I missed the fun of trying something different because I was afraid I would do it wrong. I couldn't accept that just enjoying the attempt is a kind of perfection all its own. How so?
Perfection, particularly in the biblical sense, simply means completion. When you attempt worthy things or just have fun trying out, there's a perfecting process going on that stretches your boundaries, challenges your comfort zones, and makes you a more complete version of you.
If you are perfectionist, you want to achieve perfection. But, according to whose definition? A perfectionist defines perfection as being without error or mistakes; flawless. Some authority figure declares, "Here's the standard: poor, fair, good and excellent (which means by implication, perfect)." So you carefully choose which risks to take. In school you'll balk at raising your hand to answer a question; suppose you're wrong? You have to be right. Right?
You won't enter the contest; you might lose. You subconsciously hope you're not picked for the team. Suppose you fail or make a mistake? It strikes right at your identity, doesn't it?
But then, maybe there is a good point being made here.
We tell an obsessively perfectionist child, "Just try your best. That's all that matters." Yet even with that assurance, they will still get upset with a 95 out of a possible 100. Consider this: perfection is an illusion. How so?
You build on previous successes and failures. Consider Babe Ruth, baseball's original home run record holder. He had more strike outs than home runs during his career. Or Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent light bulb. His "perfect" achievement was preceded by possibly a thousand attempts that didn't work. His knowledge, he is said to have declared, had been perfected in that he now knew a thousand ways how not to make a light bulb. Thus perfection is not a fixed destination nor a defining performance that evaluates a person's worth.
Here's the scale of effort as I see it:
1. trying your best.
2. doing your best.
3. achieving your best.
4. being perfect.
If #4 is not attained, as one may define it, then the previous three are rendered null and void. Because some authority out there decides your performance score is not a 100%, then that means you are not perfect, not complete. Therefore, you kick yourself for not trying harder, not doing better, and not achieving more.
That elusive concept of perfection causes you to define yourself by what you do; a human doing, rather than a human being. Can ever find contentment in who you are? You can only be who you are in the moment . There is no perfect moment.
Consider why a perfectionist is never really happy, never really content. The goal of perfection is an illusion that eludes the pursuer. Perfection is not a goal. It is a process.
The late Dr. Wayne Dyer said, "If you are what you do, then if you don't, you aren't."
The Apostle Paul was, in his former life as Pharisee, legalistic and focused on defining himself by his religious performance. But then he realized the emptiness of that kind of life, counting his former achievements as "rubbish". He realized that perfection, completion, is a process, which was not wholly dependent on his own efforts.
"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians:12-14)
Press on in Him, not in you. That is where your true completion may be found.