I was listening to a meditation app this morning and it was about perfectionism. Specifically, battling these voices in our head that claim we are not enough—whether through societal expectations, people in our lives, or purely from conditioning.
I struggle with this too. Present tense. It feels like I’ve been constantly chasing my whole life an ideal that I feel like I’ll never become. I wanted to be a great writer when I was in school, then I wanted to be a great designer when I got into the workforce. I don’t feel I’m either of those by any measure.
But whose measure? And why I am I measuring in the first place? And what is the measure?
When I was growing up, I was writing and designing because I found joy in it. It was intrinsically valuable to me for no other reason than I loved doing it. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought, or if anyone else knew for that matter. I sat down with a piece of paper and I applied myself, put my heart into something, felt challenged, but I kept going. Yes, there were many things I wanted to do that at the time I couldn’t, but I kept trying and kept learning and kept doing. I wasn’t measuring against anything. Technically, I don’t even think I was measuring against myself. There was no “I must be 1% better everyday!” or anything like that. I just did it because I liked to do it and I kept going just ’cause. I woke up and was excited at the idea that I get to write and design. Then I went to sleep excited that I get to do it all over again.
So now I ask: where does this notion of needing to measure ourselves come from?
In a global competitive landscape, where we celebrate “winners” because of who has the “edge,” everything has become about getting better for the sake of getting more. More money, more status, more prestige in order to buy more material things, get bigger apartments, dine at fancier restaurants, so on. And it’s created an atmosphere where everyone is trying to sell expertise and appear to be an expert because it sucks to be seen as a beginner. We must compete. We must not seem inadequate or mediocre or lackluster. Everything needs to be a masterpiece. Our egos are always on the line and no one dare their egos be hurt.
I want to battle this. I want to go back to being a beginner. I want to go back to trying things because it’s fun to try and there is joy and beauty and innocence in trying. There is no shame in starting and the reward is in the doing itself.
Let’s go back to that.
It starts with me willing to be a beginner each day. And being excited that I get to do it all over again. So long as I’m alive, there’s opportunity. Not to improve for the sake of some external reward, but to make art and feel what it’s like to be human.
Like the meditation app said: “I am Good. I am Whole. I am Worthy.”
March 12, 2023