I become a bit shy (such a childish word) when I’m sort of on the spot—like when I’m in front of a group participating in some forum that is not my strong suit. In such a case, I want the opportunity to really rehearse and over-prepare. Otherwise I tend to feel inadequate, and after the situation is over, I beat myself up a bit. I will remember every stammer, every omission, or any foolish statement. I’ll relive the discomfort and feel lousy.
Today I was about to go down that road after participating in a workshop. I wished I’d had more time to think about my role in it. But maybe because I’m blogging about reducing stress, I was instantly aware of the truth of the matter. My self-criticism was irrelevant—nothing major at all. Nothing I would judge anybody else harshly for committing or omitting. I was able to catch myself and basically say, “Who do I think I am that I have to expect such perfection from myself?”
My friend mentioned a quote a of Voltaire's “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Fixating on perfection is crippling. We will rarely feel that the time to do something is now. The time will always be after I’ve done this, or mastered that, or rehearsed however many more times. The need for perfection keeps us from putting ourselves out there in ways that would probably do us a lot of good. But the chance never comes if we just keep self-critiquing forever.
There are some areas that demand such detail-oriented nitpicking—where almost really isn’t good enough. But there are many situations in everyday life that would turn out so much better if we would just relax and do our best and move on. Doing our best at the moment is the important thing. Also, according to many of the sages, there is no future—there is only now.
So ultimately the closest we will get to perfection comes from having the courage to put ourselves out there when we are merely good, and over time—that good gets better and better.