The Deception of Perfection
If I were to write a thesaurus (which is not actually on the list of writing projects that I hope to fulfill), I would make perfection a synonym for poison. Not only do I think that striving for perfection steals health, joy and vitality from many people’s lives, I also believe that perfection is responsible for practice’s bad reputation.
“Practice makes perfect”is a saying that has been around since the 1500s in various forms. Amazing that a lie can sustain itself for so long. The tricky thing about perfection is that if it was possible to reach it, it would bring total and complete stagnation (so, it wouldn’t actually be perfection at all… is it possible for an oxymoron to be summed up in just one word?)
Perfection would mean that there was no room for improvement, no room for learning or growth. Maybe at the point of perfection there would be a moment of stillness or beauty, but then what? Life is about change and movement. Stagnation is equal to death (hence the whole poison thing). Ever smelled a stagnant pool? That’s what perfection would smell like.
Perfection would literally stink.
Practice on the other hand, is a beautiful thing. My love affair with practice is a flower that has just recently bloomed. I’d say my whole life up until the last few months, I had always thought of practice as something I had to do and never as something that I got to do. Practice was a chore. If I had to practice something, it meant that I wasn’t good enough. It was a deficit I was trying to fill.
The truth is much more beautiful than that. In truth practice is a privilege, it is a little piece of stolen time that I have to devote to something I enjoy. It is a moment for me to push change in the direction that I would like it to go.
It doesn’t matter if it is my yoga practice or my mandolin practice (or my writing practice, which is what you are reading right now), practice is a chance to grow, change and evolve. It is a time for me to push myself to expand and feel for the boundaries of what I already understand, and all that there is still to learn.
I will never write a perfect story, play an instrument perfectly or perfect the art of yogic movement and at the moment that is ok with me. I feel like I have shed the desire for perfection and am instead embracing the endless possibilities that come with practice.
Just as the idea of perfection brings jealousy, judgement and competition. Practice is the gateway to peace. It is an act of reflection, of admitting that you are a work in progress, one that will keep growing, changing and improving.
So practice kindness, practice compassion, practice self-care and empathy. Practice all of the things that you love and let the practice be its own reward. Fuck perfection, who has time to sit around and stagnate anyways?