“How do you adult so much better than I do?” a friend asked me recently.
For a few minutes, I couldn’t answer, certain she’d meant to ask someone else. Someone besides me. In that space of waiting, I ran up the tally in my mind—all the reasons she was most definitely a better adult than I:
- She’s married, so she has the relationship thing figured out—I’m single.
- She did all her own wedding decorations, so she’s not only crafty but able to complete projects—I’ve been knitting the same jumper for the past two years.
- She has an apartment—I live with my parents at the moment.
- She has a car—I’ve been letting my brothers chauffeur me around town.
- She has a job—well, so do I, technically, but her job seems better.
- She ……
And so on. At about that point, I was ready to give up, burn the unfinished to-do list I’ve been hiding from for a month, curl up on the sofa forever, and declare myself incompetent as an adult.
“You don’t have to run. You can walk,” my mother tells me. “Something is better than nothing.”
That’s her philosophy when it comes to almost everything, and as I begin to let go of my terrifying perfectionism, I see that she’s right. I’ve heard it most of my life, and you probably have too: “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” The subtle implication can be disastrous though: “If you don’t feel competent to complete this perfectly, don’t even bother starting.”
This poisonous perfectionism, has resulted in a lot of not bothering starting for me.
I didn’t have time for a whole workout, so I didn’t move at all.
I couldn’t make it on time, so I skipped class entirely.
I couldn’t commit to a deep friendship, so I skipped out on the rewarding acquaintanceship.
I’m sure you can relate, because the more I see of people, the more I realise that this “don’t do it if you can’t do it perfectly” mentality affects a huge number of us. What’s worse, though, is that many of us turn the maxim into something even more warped: “If you can’t do it as well as the person next to you, don’t do it at all.”
Suddenly, our focus isn’t on excellence at all—it’s on competition.
So this week, I’m letting go of competition. I’m letting go of perfectionism, of the lie that I can’t be successful if I can’t outdo someone else, of the need to do everything or nothing, with no healthy in-between.
This week, I’m recognising that though devastation lurks in the comparisons, beauty lives in the contrasts. Beauty lives the knowledge of how far I’ve come and the challenge of how far I have yet to go. It’s in the way our strengths and weaknesses make us need each other, in the way today’s struggles teach us to value tomorrow’s respite. It’s in getting up and doing something, even if it’s not the best something, even if it’s a small something.
Beauty is in every step I think I can’t take, every movement beyond the status quo, every something that goes beyond nothing.