Letting Go of the Need to be Perfect

A few years ago I was speaking to an older woman about art. She shared with me, “I would have loved to be creative without having to be perfect.” This made me stop in my tracks.

We continued the conversation about her experience of art classes at school; not being able to draw the perfect straight line like the teachers or other kids, or getting into trouble for not getting it right etc. She had held onto this in her body and it affected her to this day.

Many of us have had experiences like this; it may not have been in the art classroom, as perfection, hurt and comparison can play out in many areas of our life.

It may have been for colouring outside the line, but what happens if you just love yellow on white paper so much that you can’t help but want to share how awesome it looks, you can’t and don’t want to contain it to the lines, you want to share your love and joy of that colour? What happens if you want to colour in in every direction possible, – up, down, left, right, front to back, back to front, only to be told you can’t, it’s ‘not right’?

Who says it’s not right?

Just because we may like something one way, that doesn’t mean it’s true for all. It’s a bit like telling someone they can’t wear two colours together because you don’t like it, like black and navy blue, yet I love wearing them together.

Now don’t get me wrong; when teaching an art lesson, there are things to be learnt. We can still teach lessons following the experiences and outcomes we have to as part of the curriculum, alongside allowing people the freedom to express themselves and enjoy what they make.

One of the most beautiful things to do is allow children to express the same topic in the way they feel to and be blessed by and enjoy each expression.

I have learnt much from children and teenagers I teach over the years; they come up with some incredible things that I often would never think of and I say “Wow, I love that! Can I use that in another lesson?”

Sometimes what I see, because we are so prone to telling children and people what to do, is that kids can’t think for themselves; now we know this is not true – what I mean is that when asked to produce their own work, come up with ideas, not be shown by the teacher what to do step by step – many children really struggle with this. This can play out at home too, where children don’t know what to do with themselves, as in games to play or how to enjoy being on their own. When I was a child this was not the case, so something over the years has changed.

What I have also learnt from observing and talking to other people, adults and children alike, and from my own experience, is that it is important to allow people to express themselves and have fun, not try to control them, make things look perfect or good to go on a wall. Sometimes kids end up hating a subject because of this or as above cannot think for themselves, or don’t know what they like and don’t like.

I have seen kids come into first year at high school terrified of making a mistake, too scared to have fun, or very young kids in primary school, really anxious about messing up, ready to bin something for the tiniest of mistakes. How does this then equate into everyday life when we make mistakes as we go about our day? Do we have a self-barrage of really critical thoughts, attacking ourselves from the inside out to give up?

This plays out in kids from a very, very, young age all the way through to our adult life.

We need to be aware of the impact of our words and actions, our movements you could call them, how everything we do and say affects people, including ourselves. It is either healing or harming – there is no in-between. And the fact that when we hold onto things, we hold onto them in our body and they can stay with us for years or lifetimes, ill-affect our health and or cloud our picture of other situations or people. It’s not worth holding onto things – it’s like carrying lots of heavy invisible baggage around that weighs us down. What would it feel like to let go of all of this?

For me the joy in teaching is first and foremost about building a relationship with the kids, having fun, then the subject.

This is what lasts with the kids –the connection and relationship we build with them first.

By Anonymous

Related Reading:
Exposing the False Perception of a Perfect Life
“Expression is Everything” – How I Feel About Myself, the World and Other People
A ‘Perfect’ Life

843 thoughts on “Letting Go of the Need to be Perfect

  1. This really should be taught within the education system, ‘We need to be aware of the impact of our words and actions, our movements you could call them, how everything we do and say affects people, including ourselves. It is either healing or harming’.

  2. Where has this word come from? Being perfect by who’s measurement? We are so affected by the way we have been bought up, that it plays out throughout our years of living.

    Where I work, our upbringing plays out in how we deal with our every day to day situations or circumstances. And this can be quite challenging when we are faced with emergencies.
Those self critical thoughts can be debilitating. It only takes one person to bring that to a persons awareness and bring another way of seeing things and it could change a persons life. It only takes one person to love and nurture them and we could have an impact for the rest of that persons life, thats all it takes to remove those imperfection thoughts.

  3. What if we all learnt from each other and after starting with decency and respect one child could teach another until the whole class had learnt and then we all move on together, and the teacher puts the subject matter on the table and sets the boundaries!

    1. Greg it only take one to show that there is another way, that’s it. And people know and can feel that what is being presented is from the absoluteness of truth. They may not always agree but we can leave an imprint behind for a later date.

  4. I loved reading this blog we can fall into this trap of things having to be a certain way because of how our parents were taught to be too, and so the cycle continues from generation to generation. What is perfect then, how and who measures this? That is a question we need to be asking more and more. And yet everyone in this world brings their own unique expression and that is to be valued and shared with others, and in this it gives another to do the same.

    There is no perfection in life, there just is a way to be. Let go of it needing to be a certain way or even having an expectation then in that we can be us.

  5. The pictures about life we buy into, and the ideals and beliefs we invest in, all set us up to dismiss the qualities we already own. We allow these pictures to take us away from self appreciation and the natural settlement we felt in our bodies when we were very small. Our institutions work on us very insidiously from young, so that before too long we doubt our innate wisdom and align to those ideals and beliefs society says are more important, letting go of our connection to self and the knowledge of who we are.

    1. What a set up life has to offer us, purposefully done to keep us separate from who we truly are. It’s a no wonder there is so much anxiousness and unsettlement in this world because we are too busy being made to fit in to something that is false and not belonging to us.

      Life for many will be so different if we were allowed to be…

  6. The drive for perfection is the same as being constricted to colouring within the lines, conforming so someone else’s ideas and no space for your own expression.

  7. Do we have a need to be perfect because we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be imperfect? My friend told me yesterday that she got a glimpse of what it’s like to live life without pictures & how easy she felt with that. In that moment i realised that I actually have no clue how to do that, surely you have to have an idea about alll aspects of life? With that, I also realised the rush of panic i felt at considering dropping all pictures & living life that way. But with that I also got to see how holding onto this perception of life is not true because if it were true, the panic wouldn’t be there. As weird as it may sound, this felt like a very first step in dropping this perception & way of life that i’ve had a hold of my whole life.

  8. The funny thing about perfection is that it depends on your viewpoint as to what is being perfected. Perfection can come with attention to detail and being very particular, but perfection can also be about the perfect way to undo yourself. Hence an obsession with perfection is a perfect way to be a perfect disaster. 😉

  9. I agree Ariana, but in all honesty I can feel it (perfection) still wants to creep back in and is something I need to keep an eye on! Sneaky thing…and then the drive does take over till such time that I catch it and kick it out again!

  10. No matter the age we are all equal. Children too can be our teachers as we all have access to the same wisdom.

  11. When I have dreams that I am traveling and running late for a airplane ride because I am lugging around too much luggage, then I know that I need to re-assess how I am living in my day and realise I am carrying too much unnecessarily.

  12. We learn more from free expression, doing what we feel, even if mistakes happen, rather than playing safe, ‘colouring within the lines’ so that nothing happens or things stays the same.

  13. This is yet another life lesson we are not taught
    “We need to be aware of the impact of our words and actions, our movements you could call them, how everything we do and say affects people, including ourselves. It is either healing or harming – there is no in-between. ”
    If this awareness was part of the school curriculum from a young age what a difference it would make to our society

  14. Letting go of the need to be perfect – it’s a big yes to that for me. Perfection seems to be a whip we use against ourselves, when all the while we are abusing ourselves for being who we are. That makes no sense at all.

  15. “This is what lasts with the kids –the connection and relationship we build with them first.” So true Anon. The teachers I remember from my childhood – over fifty years ago now – are the ones who made a connection with me, tho I cant remember much of what they taught me.

  16. It is true when children are colouring they love a colour so much that they use it all over the page. I volunteer with children who are 6 and 7 years old and some of them are meticulous with what colour goes where and then there are the others who colour the whole page; it’s not scribbling, it’s thoughtful.

  17. When I was young, I used to love art be it painting, drawing or sculpting but with painting and drawing, I would be too self-critical when something didn’t turn out the way I had planned, even though others would say it was good I wouldn’t allow myself to see that and eventually gave up. For some reason with sculpting the self-critic was lessened considerably and I could easily produce lifelike sculptures of people to a high standard without having had any training just the basics of how to get started. Life would be a totally different experience without the self-judgment and poisoning expectations.

  18. The need to be perfect takes away any opportunity for us to allow a true flow in our lives, as we are always striving to be better or do something than we did before and therefore we are controlling what we do, which stops any true impulse that may otherwise have presented itself.

  19. Well before it is about perfection it is about love, and this is why perfection can not be our origin. Hence it is a deviation away from our love, our love here on earth in expression is imperfect but forever expanding.

  20. Letting go of trying to be perfect opens us up so much more than this individuality that is there when we strive for perfection. Being aware of being a part of a bigger picture asks us to cooperate as we all have a piece of the puzzle, equally so.

  21. So many things have been happening recently which I have considered outright wrong and despicable and I could not comprehend how they could ever be allowed to take place. Later on I have understood that although the events themselves were terrible, they were a necessary part of the overall learning offered to humanity and there for actually a deeply loving gesture to have them play out (similar to the deepening understanding and appreciation of the laws of karma).
    As this realization is settling, I am brought to a huge place of humility where I can appreciate more the fact that my personal ideals and beliefs about what is ‘right’ and ‘needed’ can lack the oversight that a Soulful relationship with life holds. Instead of going for ‘perfection’ much wiser to connect to our inner heart and deepen our ability to sense what is actually needed in each and every moment and thereafter respond.

  22. What will actually support our children more when they leave school and enter the wider world – learning how to have real meaningful relationships and a true connection with others…or remembering some facts, figures and skills? Having grown up to be an adult I know which one I would place my money on.

  23. That fear of making mistakes, and not getting it right, is so detrimental. And I know how insidious that wanting to be right really is. It stops me from accepting, expressing and living from what I am feeling to be true – basically living the all of me.

  24. Could the need to be perfect be nothing but an excuse we hold onto to hold us back from bringing all of who we are? Could the need to be perfect that is placed on us which we have accepted through our lack of love for self be a means of a feeling of discomfort within one’s body and to not feel the simplicity that is naturally within through reflection we strive for perfection and carry out the ill-energy of perfectionism onto another? Life is not set out to be driven by struggle and the need for getting everything right – there is no love here even though it is championed in our society.

  25. It is interesting here how you have made the point that images of perfection can come from another place besides ourselves. And that we in fact can work very hard to achieve these images of perfection but actually if they never came from ourselves in the first place, then who are we accountable to? Who becomes the authority of our lives?

  26. So often people’s creativity is stultified by having the need to be perfect instilled… One of the most beautiful things about bringing music and singing back to people without this need for perfection is that it seems to open up a doorway back to what it’s like to feel that childlike interaction with life again with all its innocence

  27. How mad it has been to hold onto a need to be right and how this has undermined and abused so many relationships. When I realise the value and magic of relationships and all that we learn alongside one another, my need to be right is insignificant.

  28. The fact that we get looked down upon by the education system or the Arts for how we draw a line is absurd, and yet this is the society we live in, one where comparison and competition is rife and our natural expression is criticised.

  29. Yes the greatest beauty comes from just letting things out as they naturally are without a filter. When we try to fit in and acclaimatise to our environment we totally miss the point.

  30. There seems to be so many societal rules that say something is either right or it’s wrong. But “who says it’s not right?” to colour outside the lines or to not mix two colours together? I’d love to meet them and ask them why? Why put restrictions on the expression of a child, restrictions which they will probably carry on through into adulthood and affecting everything they do. I love encouraging children to colour where they feel to and mix up the colours to their hearts content, and in the process supporting their unique expression in every way.

  31. It should absolutely work like this in classrooms, where students can inspire lessons and they are given the opportunity to talk about what they want to learn.

  32. The title of this blog captures my attention “Letting Go of the Need to be Perfect”. I have a need to be perfect. This is because I’m either not honouring my feelings and truth of what I feel in my moments of expression or not accepting how simple it can be. So, I am not going for it and trusting its not just me when I do things. This may not be accepted by many but when I see the result of things and how amazing the results are I know its not just me.
    Something also I am aware of is just renouncing the simplicity of letting the need to be perfect go. This helps me appreciate what I am capable of and not.

  33. ‘…it’s like carrying lots of heavy invisible baggage around that weighs us down. What would it feel like to let go of all of this?’
    I really have no idea, I have been carrying around this invisible baggage for so long, as I am sure many of us have. I can only imagine that a whole new world of lightness, wonder and playfulness would open up, all we need to do is to give ourselves permission to stop trying to be perfect, as it is the little ‘imperfections’ that make us all unique.

    1. I agree that perfection is a very heavy weight for our precious bodies to carry, a weight which most of the time we don’t even realise we are carrying as this is the way we have always lived. I was one who struggled under that invisible load for such a huge part of my life but once I made the choice to say no more, I could feel the weight begin to lift and the lightness underneath allowed me to truly breathe life again.

    2. Letting go of things, physically, and in our bodies, is an area I am still learning, ‘when we hold onto things, we hold onto them in our body and they can stay with us for years or lifetimes, ill-affect our health and or cloud our picture of other situations or people. It’s not worth holding onto things – it’s like carrying lots of heavy invisible baggage around that weighs us down.’

  34. It is definitely not worth hanging onto things, they weigh us down and we carry that weight everywhere we go. The joy of a child playing, not worrying about whether it’s right or wrong, good or bad, simply engrossed in their play is a reminder how we can all be with everything in life.

  35. The notion of right and wrong is a cruel task master that makes many strive for perfection – an impossible feat in anyone’s books and bound to lead to failure and the ill thought that there is something wrong with us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s