Perfect Is Better?
by Jennifer Paros
on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March
on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life's path.
Recently, while he was playing a computer game in which the score
was dependent on cumulative rounds of problem solving, every time my
son missed a round, he’d quit and start the game again. He wanted
to get 100% in the end. When I protested, he said, ‘Perfect is
better!” Though opposed to his approach, I was (to my dismay) drawn
to his reasoning and found myself faltering to explain my position.
Perfect is perfect, after all – but then, that doesn’t
necessarily make it better.
the realm of creative work “Perfectionism,” as Anne Lamott put it,
“is the voice of the oppressor . . .” We all know perfection, in
terms of flawlessness, is not critical for organic perfection
- the beauty and power of nature and creativity. But what about the
kind that seems technical and surface, achievable, exacting?
is one of the hairiest of words. In art and creation, it’s personal
and objectively indefinable. If I’m looking at The Mona Lisa
and declaring its perfection, you might be looking at it and seeing
flaws. In the world of tests, however, there are right answers. So,
if we get 100% of the questions correct, this is called a “perfect
watched my son insisting on his 100%, with the covert agenda of
proving his worth, it was clear that the more he persisted, the
unhappier he was - for he wouldn’t let himself move on. He
was a slave to a thought. His notion of his value was entangled
with his performance and perfectionism was his mechanism for trying
to sew up the issue – and then allow himself to move on. But
the more pressure he applied, the worse he did, the more it
confirmed his negative thinking about himself until he finally quit
Because life and creation always involve movement and growth,
surface perfection – with its “Let me take a closer look” attitude –
stops to assess and measure. It’s the old white glove test. Life,
meanwhile, creates, develops and expresses. Perfectionism
sacrifices movement for a made up concept of “better”. It’s a
fear-based operation and has no necessary role in improvement,
expression, success or the production of something worth sharing.
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2013
I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence,
I can reach for; perfection is God's business.
-- Michael J. Fox
is nothing perfect about the chick being born - in terms of exacting
control, flawless execution and mastery - yet still, this movement
of life is a part of an organic perfection.
a chick is ready to hatch, it’s never one powerful kick, a
breakthrough, and a birth; it’s always more of a process. And so it
is with the having of anything we wish to experience in our lives.
The chick goes after the egg many times with its beak (specifically,
its egg tooth), its feet, and its weight. It learns intuitively and
instinctively to harness and organize effort and intention, to carry
on. It receives feedback from its actions and instinct. And as it
makes its moves towards what it wants, it becomes stronger and the
egg around it becomes weaker. No move is a “win” and no move a
“loss”, none perfect or imperfect. It is cumulative and the
process, as a whole, is the win. The movement, as a
whole, is perfection.
Perfectionism is a misguided mental construct. Though it claims to
be striving for something higher, it is inherently a denial of what
is already perfect within. Perfectionism places an unnatural
emphasis on what is measurable and assessable on the surface, while
leaving the value of the whole ignored.
easy to want to quit while suffering under the reign of surface
perfectionism (the cause of so many abandoned projects and miserable
game players). But with recognition of organic perfection, no one
suffers. Life always provides a process, and if we go deeply into
it, tending to the depth of the work or idea, the details
fall into place. At the heart of every interest is guidance for its
Perfectionism looks at but not into. But actual
perfection doesn’t come through the right things or
the right surface arrangement of those things but through
connection to and expression of what’s already so right within.
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Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of
Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.
Please visit her website at