The Paralysis of Perfectionism


 I missed the memo about the paralysis of perfectionism.

Hello, my name is Jamie and I’m a Zumbaholic.   A few weeks ago, I attempted my first Zumba class and it was love at first shimmy.  In case you’re not familiar, Zumba is a group exercise phenomenon which combines elements of Latin dances, Swing, Hip-Hop, and just about every other kind of high energy dancing you can think of.  When I was a teenager, I seriously considered ditching my college plans to go be a Fly Girl, so this is my kind of exercise. 

Even though I have a blast doing all the crazy Zumba moves, I can’t do them all perfectly.  Today especially, I was having a lot of trouble getting my feet to do what I wanted them to do.   For a few seconds, I was getting pretty frustrated and there was a tiny part of my brain that just wanted to quit.  I mean, if I couldn’t get the steps right, then what was the point?

Well, perfect isn’t always the point, is it? Ever hear the expression “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”?  That’s something to ponder.  If I were doing rocket surgery, maybe there would be no room for even tiny mistakes. But in most aspects of my life, there are no meaningful returns on the investment it takes to get from pretty good to perfect.

Pretty good is usually good enough, especially when the fear of not being perfect would keep me from even trying. 

If you’ve never seen it, you absolutely have to see Kissing Jessica Stein.  Lots of memos in that movie.  One of my favorites was this scene between Jessica and her mom…

Tovah Feldshuh and Jennifer Westfeldt crying very believable tears…don’t worry, there are also lots of laughs.

Judy: Sweetheart, I will never forget when you were in the fifth grade and you were so excited when you got the lead in the play‚Ķ  Do you remember that? “Really Rosie”?

Jessica: “Really Rosie”, yeah. I remember.

Judy: And you came home after the first day of rehearsal and you turned to me and you said, “Mommy, I’m not gonna do it. I quit.” Just like that.   I turned to you and I said, “Jessie. Jessie, my love, why?” And you said, “Because my co-star isn’t good enough. And if my co-star isn’t good enough, then the play won’t be good enough. And I don’t wanna be part of any play that isn’t good enough.” And I thought to myself… “Oy. This child will suffer. How this child will suffer.” And then they gave it to the “mieskeit” with the glasses.

Jessica: Tess Greenblatt.

Judy: Right.

Jessica: God, she was terrible.

Judy: Right. And you would have been great!  And you didn’t get to do it. You had to sit there and watch terrible Tess do it… with that guy you thought wasn’t good enough, who was actually quite excellent, wasn’t he?

Jessica: He was. He was very good.

Judy: And you know? I always think that you would have been so much happier doing that play, even if it was just okay. Even if it was great, just not the best ever. And maybe, just maybe, it would have been the best ever. You never know.

Wow, right?  If my perfectionism keeps me from even attempting something, and then I get stuck just doing nothing, that’s kind of weird and pathetic, isn’t it?  Perfect nothing is not better than imperfect something.  So let me go practice my cha cha cha.  Memo received.

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