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

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

  1. Having spent most of my life in a perpetual state of anxiety about making mistakes and therefore being rejected, I can now see that this was a set up to keep me from being powerful and taking responsibility for what I can bring to the world.

  2. “This is what lasts with the kids –the connection and relationship we build with them first” – yes, and it is what lasts with us all too as all human beings; connection being everything to us all.

  3. When we have a lot of anxiety we are tempted to try and avoid all possible triggers for the anxiety like making a mistake. It may be useful to find the cause of the anxiety and deal with that. This may then reduce or eliminate the need for the anxiety-management behaviour.

  4. The inner child has to be nurtured with self-love and disciplines so we can learn what it is like to give free-reign to our Soul and from this Joy-full space others get an understanding that our reflection with this deepening “connection and relationship we build with” our-selves is then available to everyone. As is being shared for us to be with others in a Loving way “how everything we do and say affects people, including ourselves.”

  5. Perfection is how we choose to percieve things – temporal society wants a child to colour within the lines and then labels this as being perfect when it lies inside those given boundaries, but divine perfection sees the colour the child has chosen and the shape that the child has drawn outside of the boundaries as the perfection in expression (nothing to do with colouring inside the lines). Which perfection do you choose – the one that appears to tick the box, or the one that allows the child to be and supports their natural expression.

  6. Perfection in our physical world is an illusion and a picture we can get very much caught up in. However, it does not have to be this way – we can learn that there is no perfection in the physical and hence no need to chase this and hence we can be more free to focus on the one and only perfection that can be in life, which is the quality of expression where the perfection of expression is simply our alignment to our essence and expressing from there.

  7. There is no end as to what can affect us if we choose to let it, and then how long that has an impact on our bodies if we dont address it with true healing.

  8. It is great to let go of any ‘need’ as there is an intense energy that comes with ‘need’ so the need to be perfect is super tense as perfection is an unreal, unattainable goal to set oneself. Perfection driven by need is a recipe for a very high strung nervy disaster.

  9. “Just because we may like something one way, that doesn’t mean it’s true for all” – We can’t judge other people for what they choose either just because ‘we don’t like it’… That person is always coming from somewhere, and it’s important to understand where they are at, their purpose and choices which may be different to our own.

  10. Children carry so much wisdom and then they observe everything. If we try to mould them into something we want them to be then we lose the truth of who they are.

  11. Perfection puts us in a constant state of competition and comparison – both of which are killers of true relationship.

  12. Because we have such an active imagination perfect can nearly always be just out of reach so we can sabotage our enjoyment of what is.

  13. I agree that fostering creativity and self-expression in children and therefore into adulthood is so important – and without it we miss out on a whole variety of expressions and appreciation of everyone’s unique ways in the world. When that expression comes from a connection to our essence then true magic can happen that truly blossoms.

  14. I am becoming aware of how much of what we hold onto affects us in all areas of our lives, so this picture of perfections stifles and controls us. Right and wrong was instilled in me from a very young age, and has affected my choices in many areas, letting that and perfection go is very liberating.

  15. With no need to be perfect or fit any image we are actually very open to learning anything as there is no right or wrong, good or bad that wants us to reduce to being less than who we are and thus we can express as who we are in what we do and it will always be unique in expression without necessarily being very skilled or talented.

  16. The attachment to right and wrong drives the picture of perfection. When we realise there is no such thing as right and wrong, then the world can open to the understanding of truth.

  17. How imposing is it when we teach a child to colour between the lines and compliment them for it, I could feel the restriction in my body especially when you wrote about the love for a colour and sharing this joy and love by colouring it all over the paper. And our education system is full of rules and protocols of basically how to learn to fit in and not let the love and joy we innately are flow and grow. To open up and consider ‘Just because we may like something one way, that doesn’t mean it’s true for all.’ would be already a great start.

  18. ‘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’?’ – It teaches us to shut down our true expression.

  19. ‘We need to be aware of the impact of our words and actions…’ there is an invitation and responsibility here. The invitation is to come into relationship with ourselves and be present in every moment and the responsibility comes naturally afterwards as we are aware of what we are saying and doing and can therefore take responsibility for the impact we have.

  20. The need or striving for perfection is motivated by a deeper need we should be aware and take care of so that the whole concept of perfection loses its foundation and becomes irrelevant. Quite often we will find a combination of judgement, lack of self-worth and the need for safety, protection or control as the underlying cause for perfection and obviously perfection, even if it could be achieved, cannot really address these needs.

  21. How can we support a child to be themselves when our movements are controlling? It’s not about the school looking good or the teachers need for recognition from others but allowing and supporting the child to express with no judgement. The moment we judge a child for what they say or do we impose and can interfere with their learning actually harming them instead of encouraging and supporting them to have fun and be themselves.

  22. Where does this need for perfection come from? Perhaps from not connecting with the fact that we are innately perfect and the more we claim this the less we will need things external from us to be perfect.

    1. Very true Elizabeth… and seeking external perfection is a great distraction from connecting within.

  23. To let go of perfection we need to let go of pictures, ie. the need of something to be what we want it to be and instead to be open to whatever comes along our way next and take it for what it is.

  24. I loved when I started to let go of needing to be perfect and instead embraced learning and developing with each moment. The ease I feel in my body is priceless.

    1. Well said David – the pressure we put on our bodies to be ‘perfect’ is ridiculous and creates an unnecessary tension in our entire being.

  25. It is very difficult to keep our natural curiousity and love of learning when we experience a sense of failure or shame if we make a mistake or do it differently than others.

    1. The seed of doubt and shame is very early planted into our way of being, the mere fact that we applause some and ignore other actions, that we put focus on what a child can do and achieve, sets us up to never feel adequate just the way we are.

  26. Relationships first, the foundation of everything we do, anything less is superficial, crumbles and will not stand the test of time. Make it about relationships and we have meaning, connection and true purpose.

  27. “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.” I can so relate to this and can remember when I was colouring in, how careful I was NOT to go outside the lines for fear of getting it wrong. But as you say, who is to say what is right and wrong when all we want to do as children is to express ourselves.

  28. I can absolutely relate to this and am shocked how much the impact of criticism from school and as a child has stayed with me as a belief for most of my adult life and although I’m starting to shift these beliefs they are well ingrained so it is taking a while unravel what I have held onto.

  29. The need to be perfect cannot be without a picture or ideal we think we have to comply with, i.e. not before we compare and judge ourselves the need for perfection can arise. Hence becoming aware of the comparison, expectations and judgements helps to set ourselves free from perfection that only is sought to make up for the lack of self-acceptance we allowed in the first place.

  30. Perfection can seep into every corner of our lives without us even realising its there. But when we do become aware of it, and start to let it go, it becomes clear as to how much of a burden it is, and how exhausting.

    1. Perfection is big for me and is not something I’ve allowed myself to truly feel, I can feel how much of a burden it is and how it leaves me feeling anxious as I never live up to the perfectionism I hold and so yes therefore I leave myself feeling exhausted.

  31. Kids are so much more responsive when they feel secure in their expression. Appreciate them in any and every way for them to feel this and from there learning is incredible. Teachers need to know their responsibility of being this secure foundation for the children by example.

  32. I am not a teacher but work in community services and I too make work firstly about connection and relationships and I observe constantly the miracles that happen from here.

  33. We can try to be perfect by doing things ‘right’, or we can know that in our essence we are naturally perfect before we try to ‘do’ anything. If we are connected to our essence does it matter what we do and how ‘perfect’ it is?

  34. “Who says it’s not right?” so true and when we listen to right and wrong then we loose our natural ability to do and say what feels true. If we listen to the opinions of others that may differ from what we are feeling, we learn to hold back on our true expression and learn to compromise or comply with others to the detriment of our own well being. If we want to encourage children to express then we have to allow them to offer what is true for them and as an added bonus it is amazing what we can learn from them when we allow this to happen.

  35. ‘It’s not worth holding onto things – it’s like carrying lots of heavy invisible baggage around that weighs us down’. If life feels complicated and hard, then it’s possible we are holding onto past hurts, which takes up space in our bodies, and fogs our perspective and vision, and our decisions. Much simpler to drop the baggage.

  36. There is nothing in nature that is perfect! There can be symmetry, but even these patterns are unique, like snowflakes. Could it be, it is in our nature, to think, we can improve something that never needed fixing?

  37. Needing things to be a certain way and not being open to other people’s interpretations and expressions is very limiting and I have felt this in my own body as a real constriction in my abdomen and chest area, showing me that it is also self-harming to be this way and holds others back from being themselves as well as instilling doubt in another person.

  38. Perfection is like a boxing match we put ourselves in – and there’s no way we’ll step out of the ring a winner. When we find out we’ve made a mistake or fallen down the last thing in the world we need is to be beaten.

  39. An amazing sharing of life and the perfection we put onto things and the holding on in our bodies and restrictions this brings “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.”so true and what a freedom to let go heal and bring a simplicity freedom and joy to our lives.

  40. There are many things in life that need to be almost perfect. When we are small learning the stove is hot is a good one and parallel parking your car is another. Being precise and accurate always has a tolerance because perfect is one use only item.

  41. To allow people to express themselves as they feel to, and have fun doing it without any judgement, is a golden gift to be lovingly held in this way by another.

  42. As long as we do not deal with our critical voice towards ourselves our Children will have a hard time to stay free from this way of attacking themselves. We have to show them a different, loving way which they they then Can follow naturally.

  43. “It’s not worth holding onto things ” yes I agree, when we hold onto things we are creating a poison in our body, as that holding on is being buried deeper within.

  44. It is so ingrained in me to do things a certain way and for it to be perfect it but pretending that I don’t care or notice. Actually it really matters. But what I have come to understand, its not about things being done a certain way its about the way it gets done, what type of energy and does it have a openness and a flow with it. This is what I like to feel and be obedient to and I love it when I am. Others can be where they are. With it open to flow there is always evolution involved so there is never on fixed point so perfect doesn’t even exist.

  45. “Letting go of the need to be perfect” is a constant theme in my life, I have made a huge amount of progress especially recently with this, and I just delight at times in the imperfect as a celebration of that fact.

  46. With perfection there’s a rigidity and control that is so unnatural. There’s also a sense of crushing: anything not perfect is rejected. Allowing the imperfections in life, in ourselves and in others offers us the space to learn and grow, and appreciate and enjoy the process.

  47. Reading this I’m seeing more how I hold back on things for fear of not being perfect or doing a good enough job when actually the learning process of doing things is what rewards us and keeps us from stagnation.

  48. It seems a paradox that we tell people to be creative, but often within the rules. Expression is expression and should be appreciated and celebrated, not shut down and dismissed.

  49. If you focus on perfection you will never be content with what you have done.
    I am living more the concept that ‘I did what I could and it was enough’.

  50. ‘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.’ – How often do we judge others by their so called lack of taste, rather than celebrating the fact that they have a completely different and unique expression?

    1. I so very much agree Eva, it is actually quite ridiculous to judge somebody by their taste with all the different styles, forms and colours there are. It is the expression that counts and how true it is in our own unique way, never just the outer appearance.

  51. Relationship and connection first, there is no right or wrong, just expression… and then everything flows from there.

    1. I agree Jenny when we make it about relationship and connection, the expression and everything else just flows, there is no trying needed.

  52. What is true for one person is not true for all, so the dogmatic person who knows right and wrong can be very imposing on us. I love how this expression considers everyone as equal, with an equal voice for themselves.

  53. The quality of relationship that we have had with a teacher/s can last a lifetime in a truly positive way.

    1. Yes it can. And this is a point of inspiration and gorgeous responsibility for teachers… appreciating the impact we can have and realising that this can be in the smallest gesture, meeting and/or acknowledgement.

  54. The title of this blog gives so much away about perfectionism. ‘Letting Go of the Need to be Perfect’ I’ve found that when we have a need, we are often willing to overlook all manner of things, and put ourselves into a course of action that is detrimental to our integrity and own health, can introduce complication and take us off course. To look at what that need is, naturally heals the ideal of perfectionism.

  55. I know a young girl, six years old, who loves to perform songs for her family, yet she isn’t yet able to sing in tune. Long may she continue to have fun and enjoy her voice and have no worries about being able to sing ‘perfectly’. How many of us got crushed from young for not getting something right and have tried to be perfect in one area or another ever since? We are human. Perfection isn’t possible. Accepting our imperfections makes life less of a struggle for such individuals.

  56. Doing tick box exercises in order to make things look good results in good nice perfectionist people but then often without any enthusiasm or joie de vivre.

  57. You are so right! Our words and actions can affect people for the rest of their lives. Proverbs 15:23 says, “A man rejoices in giving the right answer, and a word spoken at the right time – how good it is!” It’s wonderful that you truly care about how you communicate with children.

  58. Such a beautiful way of teaching, connection with the kids first and foremost, having fun, preparing the children to be open to learning and enjoying their school time.

    1. I agree, preparing children to enjoy their school time should be the main priority in the education system.

  59. The need to be perfect totally keeps us from the enjoyment and connection we would otherwise get to experience

  60. Letting-go of perfection is like letting go of a tonne of bricks that is ‘invisibly’ loaded on the body. Swap trying with self-acceptance, and the body feels immediately lighter.

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