“Don’t wait until you know who you are to make things.” Steal Like An Artist (Austin Kleon)
Ever since my self-diagnosis as a perfectionist, now recovering, everyday is a battle between getting out of my head and getting on to creating. The voices in my brain give me numerous reason why I shouldn’t start, shouldn’t do it, shouldn’t try. If the results are less stellar than envisioned or if I get bored in the middle and quit, the voices have a grand ole time with the “I told you so.”
I’ve been pursuing perfection for years – always seeking to please – and priding myself on all of the “doing” I had achieved. In school, progress and report cards became evidence of my quest for perfection. In my career, the question of the ages “will that look good on your resume”? As a citizen, involving myself in more and more & more random initiatives in the pursuit of societal perfection.
Instead of the intense focus on the “doing” this year, I’ve started by focusing on the “being”. What a novel and gigantic shift. In “doing”, we are able to hold ourselves to external standards of what we perceive as great, interesting, creative, and successful. For me, I’ve propped more people up on pedestals than I can count. Simply for what I perceived them to have done or for what they have. Most times, the pedestals come crashing down when I realize I don’t actually care for the quality of who they are.
“Being” is by its nature very messy. It doesn’t have an external standard; it’s driven internally. For me, its a constant check of my values against my actions. Focusing on “being” will get me to “doing” if I’m conscious of what’s important and where I’m putting my focus. It also helps me to keep my word. When I’m somewhere, you know that I’ve chosen to be there and not just for the pursuit of how it will look or what I’ll get out of it.
Working on “being” means embracing imperfection – there’s no possibility to “be” perfect. A fact that a recovering perfectionist doesn’t love. Instead, this focus gives us the possibility of redefining our values and actions. It means that I’ve given myself permission to change my mind, scribble things out, tear out pages, and start over when it feels the most right.
For 2012, thirty years after starting my quest for perfection, I’m looking forward to what is created as I start embracing my messy and imperfect self.
(Photo from Austin Kleon, How to Steal Like An Artist)