Coming to terms with imperfection

Duyen Nguyen  

What’s a life without mistakes?

When you’re asked in an interview, ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ and you respond with ‘Being a perfectionist’, it’s not only a cliche, it’s also a sign you need to learn the art of letting go. Don’t worry, I’ve caught myself saying it before too.

Perfectionism is riddled with so much baggage, it’s any wonder you can even get up in the morning! Let alone perfectly pour your coffee before you perfectly brush your teeth to set out for a perfect day.

Perfectionism does not equal happiness.

Gretchen Rubin aptly encaptured (in my opinion), ‘to be happy, you need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.’

Focusing on that ‘atmosphere of growth’, there is a difference between healthy striving and perfectionism as a means to grow as a person.

‘Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve?” Perfectionism is other-focused: “What will they think?” – Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be and Embrace Who You Are.

If happiness is your end goal from being perfect, I really think you will have one shiny, spectacular moment where everything is flawless and euphoric followed by the dread of having to continue on that endless treadmill of having to maintain it.

And really, I want life to be more than that for you. You deserve more happiness that what perfectionism promises you.

So, how do we come to terms with imperfection?

Firstly, there’s really no pro argument that I’ve heard that convinces me to stay in the perfectionism camp. It’s like that toxic friend we all have (and shouldn’t have) who is so demanding and emotionally draining that we’ve just got to cut the cord. So, cut the cord. Tell them that it’s over and you’re moving on – the intention to be done with it will help come to terms that none of us are perfect. We’re all imperfect, let’s be imperfect together.

Secondly, start journaling. Better yet, start listing all the great things you’ve done in your entire life. I’ve heard it called a ‘success journal’ that you can carry around to remind you of how awesome you are despite not being flawless. But, you’re still pretty amazing. Sometimes, writing in a journal is a great way of self-talk as your own positive best friend. It sounds simple but try it, it may actually help.

Thirdly, admit your mistakes and admit that it’s ok to make mistakes. It really is. Who doesn’t make mistakes? Once we realise everyone makes mistakes, you realise it’s not just you and it feels a lot less lonely. Let’s celebrate our mistakes, cue next sub-heading.

Let’s celebrate our mistakes.

We all make mistakes. Hence, none of us are truly perfectionists. And really, just don’t bother. Let’s laugh at our writerly mistakes, our supposed literary sins and really, celebrate our mistakes because it’s essentially a universally human thing to do. It’s a real journey to come to terms with imperfection and relish in it. It’s not easy but trust me, it’s much more relaxing to not be a perfectionist and funnily enough, it’s more fun.

Come have fun and have a laugh as six writers share their writerly confessions and celebrate their literary mistakes at Confessions on Friday 29th June at 7pm. And hey, if you’re still around afterwards, stick around for our closing night party afterwards. Let’s celebrate this thing called the human experience (and the Emerging Writers’ Festival, of course)!

EWF Creative Producer Duyen Nguyen is a freelance creative and communications consultant, producer and writer. After realising she loved her Arts degree more than she loved her Law Degree, she became a non-traditional Arts/Law Graduate working with Arts House (Festival of Live Art 2018, Refuge 2017), Melbourne Fringe Festival 2017 (Fringe Furniture, Pivot, Forest Fringe, The Children’s Party) and Transitions Film Festival 2018. She is also currently part of Malthouse Theatre’s 2018 Vanguard.