At job interviews, when they ask you “What’s your biggest flaw?” the joke answer is, “I care too much” or “I’m a perfectionist”. It’s seen as a cheap response to imply that you don’t have any flaws, that you’re so in control that your biggest flaw is being too perfect, which is in fact not a flaw at all.
However, at the last interview I had I told them the truth. I said, “I know this answer is seen as someone trying to spin a ‘flaw’ into a positive, but the only people who think of perfectionism as a positive are people who don’t suffer from this. Being a perfectionist makes me a control freak, gives me anxiety, keeps me from asking for help or trusting others to get basic tasks done, and in the end it simply keeps me from being happy. It’s a constant struggle and it’s exhausting.”
I got the job.
In an earlier blog post I mentioned the app Habitica, which has been an enormous help to me in making some positive habits and changes in productivity. But there’s a downside to everything, and for me it has been trying (and expecting) to have a “Perfect Day” every day. That means completing every single item on my Dailies list, which is an achievement on Habitica. So far since starting the game, I have had 40 “Perfect Days”.
Which for most people, considering I’ve been playing less than 2 months, would be something to be proud of. But my brain won’t allow me to see it that way.
Here’s the thing about being a perfectionist; it makes you an all-or-nothing person. I want the house SPOTLESS, and if I don’t have time to make that happen I don’t want to clean at all. I want to have a SUPER DUPER ORGANIC HIGH-FIBER MACROBIOTIC PROTEIN-RICH healthy meal, and if I can’t do that I will just say, “Well fuck it, then”, and eat total garbage. I want to have a PERFECT DAY, and if I can’t do that I will just say “WELP DAY RUINED OH WELL” and stop completing tasks altogether.
Habitica offers the option to “rest in the Inn” on days when you’re sick or on vacation or otherwise not going to be able to do your normal routines, and it keeps you from losing streaks or sustaining damage on Dailies that aren’t done. It’s a really great feature, but to be honest I think I’ve been abusing it. Rather than losing a streak or taking damage on a day that I was perfectly capable of getting everything done (ie. not sick or on vacation), I’ve checked into the Inn before the end of the day. Doing this makes me slack off on everything because I know I won’t take a hit, and the quality of my whole day takes a hit as a result.
What to do? How do I learn to have a balance between a Perfect Day and a Perfectly Fine But Imperfect Day?
Here’s something wonderful. In Japan, there is an art form called Kintsugi, which is a method of repairing broken pottery with precious metals like gold, silver, or even platinum. The theory behind this is that through the wear and tear of use and even outright breakage, an object can become even more beautiful than it was before.
“Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin….Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject.”
— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics
I want to incorporate that kind of mentality into my life. For example, yesterday a bunch of my tasks went undone. But you know what? I got to spend the whole day with the love of my life, watching movies and getting ready for Halloween. The “Perfect Days” where I’m super productive aren’t the ones I’m going to remember when I get old, it will be days and moments like that.
And sure, not all the imperfect days are going to be imperfect for good reasons. I’m not always going to miss my To-Dos because I’m having fun; there will be emergencies and illnesses and just plain ole Bad Days. But that’s life. The cracks and breaks and changes and unexpected bits are life; nobody expects my plate to be whole and perfect, and if it were, what would that say about the way I live?
Nobody has the same threads of silver and gold running through them that I do. None of our breakage is the same; it is uniquely ours. It’s not the plates that makes us who we are, it’s the cracks running through them, and how they pieces are held together, that matters.
Keep on keeping it together. You’re beautiful.