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

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

  1. 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. 😉

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. “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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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?

  18. 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

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. ‘“Letting Go of the Need to be Perfect” – this is a great reminder that within us all is the perfection of God. We can run around trying to fit into some ‘picture perfection’ yet all the while we have what we need within us, all of it is there, like a treasure chest of gold and diamonds.

  25. 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.

  26. ‘…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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. “Just because we may like something one way, that doesn’t mean it’s true for all. ” So true Anonymous, we all make different choices, because we are each of us unique. Bring understanding rather than judgement to the world we live in.

  30. The teachers that make it about people and not the curriculum are the teachers who gel with the students, yet I also appreciate the pressure the teachers are under to fulfil an obligation to prepare them for the curriculum targets they will be assessed against. Therefore my sense is it is an education system issue that designs a curriculum that reduces who we are to fitting into a box, being able to follow without questioning and conform to a standard.

    1. Yes in later life it is the teachers themselves who made an impression rather than the material they presented in class that people remember. Yet they are under enormous strain, as you say Lucy.

    2. Our education system is in desperate need of a major overhaul, as is all of society; forget about the subject matters etc., education needs to be about people first and only then about the curriculum.

      1. Funnily enough the teachers who are loved by students make it about the students and actually love their subjects so the curriculum fits around what would support them most. Don’t get me wrong, the pressure on the teachers is insane and the curriculum does not take that into account, but some teachers have found a way to keep it about people first and that really inspires me.

  31. We are taught to follow the leader, to fall in line, to fit in and I am only now starting to see the harm it does and how it squashes children’s natural abilities.

  32. Perfection the sought – out game of living the “best life” yet how much is lived when we are on the constant roller coaster of not feeling we are enough?

  33. We suppress and narrow our full expression when we conform and measure ourselves to what we accept as being perfect compared to the freedom and ease we develop when we know ourselves and simply connect and express from the truth of who we are.

  34. When I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of toys so we used to invent and create our own and when lego came along it didn’t come with a plan or instructions you just made what ever your imagination wanted. Today though lego comes with a picture of what to build and a set of step by step instructions and a lot of kids don’t know what to build without them. Is this another way of limiting kids, just like making them colour in inside the lines?

  35. It is easy to see the stress and constant anxiety that perfectionism causes in other people. We are going to make ‘mistakes’ as we are not meant to be perfect, so to accept this brings a lot of ease and restores the joy of experimenting life, rather than seeking to get it ‘right’.

  36. That explains us why the education doesn’t work when it’s based on ‘material and information’, simply because it is connection that reveals the deeper intelligence in one. And from there onward the learnings.

  37. I am letting go of all my tensions of my school days by visiting the local primary school Year 2 and having fun meeting the children and sharing their experiments as they learn about themselves, each other and life.

  38. Our attempts to be perfect are endless – even something simple like holding your stomach muscles in so your tummy looks lean – it’s all creating a picture that takes us away from being honest, if we just allow what is already there to just be there it’s so freeing, plus if there is a problem then we can deal with it rather than keep pretending it’s not there.

  39. I remember getting into trouble in year 5 for colouring-in in different directions. I was colouring an ocean blue and what I should have said to the teacher, is that the ocean doesn’t flow in one direction, which is basically what I was colouring. I love the wisdom of children.. if only the education system did to.

    1. An education system actually designed to nurture and develop children to be who they naturally are – now that would be amazing…

  40. Our seeking of perfection completely undermines the innate, exquisite and incomparable beauty and power of who we already are within. This inner-quality is the complete package and our confirmation of this in our children and with ourselves is what allows us to live knowing our power, in which the need for perfection becomes obsolete.

  41. I agree that the relationship you have with the kids is first and foremost the most important thing when you are teaching. The teachers we remember are the ones who love us for who we are, who know there is a bigger picture at play and who helped us gain a greater understanding of it. I never remember what they taught me, just how they genuinely cared and took the time to be interested in more than the subject at hand.

  42. I remember my art teacher at school taking an instant dislike to me and basically ridiculed everything I did, maybe it was his way of trying to get the best out of me but it kind of crushed me and needless to say I didn’t take art the following year. Maybe now I should revisit it to just have fun and express.

  43. The pressure to get it all ‘right’ is placed firmly upon us from all directions when we are very young. And yet in truth there is no right or wrong – there is just expression. When we connect to who we truly are, we realise how innately powerful we are, and have no need to strive to be someone else’s ideal of perfection.

    1. I feel awkward just reading this as I can feel how much pressure I put on myself to get things right all the time, I can feel an anxiety in me just at the thought of getting something wrong.

  44. Perfection is like a poisonous liquor – we drink one shot and it keeps hurting us in our liver. For years after you think you’ve let it go, you realise you’re still measuring to see if you are ‘good enough’ when you are glorious naturally.

  45. When we drop the need to be perfect there is so much space for understanding yourself on a completely new level. I think this is due to the fact that when we aren’t trying to fit the image of ‘perfect’ (who ever made that up in the first place!) we are left to feel how we like to colour in, what colours we like, the way we like to learn, move, talk, type, write… you get the picture 😉

  46. The need for perfection starts from an emptiness, maximizing one´s potential starts from what is already there.

    1. Sadly, our education system does not support this premise. The thinking behind it is that we know nothing and have a 0 base line to start from when young. So yes, the school system gives us pictures of perfection that is hard to attain, stems from an emptiness and magnifies it as we work through the system.

      1. What if, the education system had a grading system of; pass or require a little more assistance? There would be no competition, just what is next.

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