I remember trying to prepare for interview questions. If asked about my weakness, I would say being a perfectionist. I was trying to be cute and clever. I didn’t think employers would be leery of an employee who likes their work to be perfect. It means I pay attention to details and thoroughly review my work product. However, over this past year, I’ve come to realize that striving to be perfect is truly unhealthy and is likely founded as a response to a traumatic experience.
The Danger of Perfectionism
Perfectionism takes away your humanity. Part of treating people humanely means allowing their flaws. When I think about the unarmed shootings of Black men and women part of the tragedy is that there is a message that we have to perform perfectly during police interactions, but the law doesn’t require us to be perfect.
Perfectionism is harmful to learning. The best lessons come from mistakes. The best inventions oftentimes came about accidentally. Perfection prevents you from action. You think you can’t act until everything is perfect. You never publish the book because it is not perfect. You never shot your shoot with your crush because you are not perfect. You talk yourself out of applying for positions because you don’t think you’ve perfected a skill set.
You do not need to be perfect. You don’t need to be perfect in relationships, you couldn’t if you tried. You are human and you inevitably have flaws. You find a person who allows you your humanity, who will grow and learn with you. I’m not talking about tolerating abuse. You do not need to be perfect at work. Instead, you need a work environment where it is safe to learn and make mistakes.
What is the Goal?
Learning is the goal, not perfection. Learning and growing. The same applies to the practice of law. I remember when I was studying for the bar some would be ashamed of getting answers wrong during the study session. Shame serves no one. Get all the answers wrong while practicing. Seek to understand why the answer was incorrect. The funny thing about the practice of law is that most practice areas have a way of ridding perfectionist ways. So now, I’ll have to think of another weakness during interview prep because being a perfectionist is no longer one of mine.
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