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Sat, March 23

Column: Perfectionists

This is a column about perfectionists and imperfectionists.

There are way too many of the latter who think and behave as if they inhabit the bodies and minds of the former.

So you understand what I’m getting at, let me preface this small offering with the caveat that there are times and situations when I ( and perhaps you) have needed the expertise of a perfectionist. Like the physician who repaired my heart, for instance.

But my history has been filled with too many folks who have made my days and years longer than necessary

because they embrace a work or life pattern that has been carefully conditioned either by strong parental expectations or by their own deep-rooted commitment to the ideal of perfection.

The friend who had to give up his pursuit of becoming a tennis professional because he couldn’t control his temper when he missed an easy shot. The lady who finally stopped writing a novel after several years because she simply couldn’t “get it right” to her satisfaction.

They become locked into a life of considerable unhappiness, frustration and guilt.

It’s when I meet or observe a person with this “impossible dream” that I silently rejoice in my acceptance of being an imperfectionist.

In fact, I am an enthusiastic, committed one.

I know that everything I do can be done better.

Every idea and thought can be improved on.

Everything I write can be rewritten in a more precise, concise, eloquent form.

Years ago I discovered I was a risk-taker. I like the challenge of breaking new ground, starting projects, taking first steps.

So I now feel comfortable producing columns and articles that may stimulate and provoke others to improve on them.

Of course, the more I submit my ideas to public scrutiny, the more chance there is I will be proved wrong or uninformed or illogical or just plain stupid.

But that’s the risk each of us takes every time we act or make a decision. We subject ourselves to second guessing and criticism.

What each of us hopes for is understanding, tolerance, charity, and forgiveness.

In attempting to elevate the status of imperfection, am I condoning mediocrity, lesser effort and average performance?

Not at all. Being an imperfectionist doesn’t mean that one doesn’t attempt to exert his or her best effort. What it does mean is that we put forth as good an effort as possible, remaining realistic in our expectations.

“It won’t be perfect, but it will be the best I can do at this time.”

Sadly, too many people are being conditioned to think that it is possible to give a 110 percent effort.

Or that if we only try harder and longer, we can achieve a perfect marriage or play a perfect tennis match or be a perfect boss or write a perfect article.


This thinking is potentially self-destructive and dangerous.

Who wants to spend their life trying to measure up to standards that cannot be met?

There are enough chances for failure and guilt in our lives without setting ourselves up for more.

So, let’s consider the virtues of being imperfectionists and risk-takers who put themselves out there with the bravado of Popeye: “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.”


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