If we wake up one day, go outside, and immediately determine that the weather and day are "perfect," what deems it so? Is there an exact degree Fahrenheit we should be looking for on our thermometers? A small cloud-to-visible sky ratio that meteorologists have hinted at? What about the breeze? Is it blowing just enough to cause your flyaways to lightly flutter around your forehead? But not too much that you don't need to wear a jacket? Is it a noisier day, with children gleefully chortling as they play outside with dogs excitedly barking, or is it a quieter day, with the absence of a neighboring mother yelling at her seven-year-old because she accidentally ran over his bicycle that he left in the middle of the driveway *again*?
A "perfect" day cannot be defined nor calculated because a "perfect" day changes every day. What might be perfect swimming weather may be ludicrous weather for hiking, and a perfect day for me could differ drastically from a perfect day for you. That being said, if something as ever-changing as the weather can be seen as perfect simply for being nothing more and nothing less than beautifully itself, why do we place so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect? Where did we (if you consider yourself a perfectionist as well) derive this all-or-nothing mentality that anything less than 100%, or first place, or whatever standard you consider "perfect," is a failure? And even more so, when the standards for perfection are constantly evolving and just out of our reach, a wondrous illusion like a rainbow that you can see clearly but never touch? Vanishing once we are at the point of reaching it?
This complex idea of "perfection" has been on my mind a lot lately, especially during commencement season, when, naturally, one questions and critically analyzes every single aspect of his or her life. To give context, recently, I was working at a dinner for a commencement ceremony. It was a quiet event. The dinner was for the president, select faculty, and various high-achieving seniors and their family members from the graduating class. It was set high up in the boxes of the stadium. The view from this box was impressive, as there was a large window through which we could see the pre-graduation proceedings below and see graduating seniors scuffling towards their seats. As we were setting the tables, ensuring that every place setting was impeccable, inspirational quotes were flashing on and off the screen of the jumbotron below. I didn't think much of it until I glanced up and read something that stopped me in my tracks: "if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything."
I felt like I had been sucker-punched in the stomach with a ton of bricks. It felt like no coincidence that I had happened to turn my gaze to the screen at that exact moment, and it instantly caused me to reflect on the way I had been approaching perfectionism for so long. I came to realize that my hesitancy in completing projects was due greatly to my fear of it turning out anything less than perfect.
This is a harmful mentality and can ruin many opportunities if you don't learn to overcome it. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally impossible to give 100% at every single moment of your life. This is not to say that doing your best is a bad thing. Regardless of the circumstances, you should try not to lower your standards. But, if you find you cannot give 100%, 80% of your efforts is still much better than zero. You have to learn to distinguish between when you're actually slacking off and when you have tried your best with what you have (but may still be falling short). And being truly ok with the latter is a lesson I'm still trying to master, the art of imperfection.
Frankly, I'll probably be struggling with perfection for a long time. I'll probably come back and pick this piece apart weeks or even days later, wishing I had written it differently or tweaking words and sentences to make it sound better. But, I'll also probably come to my senses and remember that this is the best that I could give at the moment that I wrote it. Perfectly imperfect, like a breezy, partly-cloudy day.