We aren’t meant to be perfect. We are meant to be whole. If you allow yourself, you can become stronger in the very places that you’ve been broken. ~Jane Fonda
I’m not entirely sure where I got the idea—Family? Friends? Society in general?—that everything needs to be done perfectly all of the time, but that energy sure runs deep. And, if I’m not careful, this is the time of year it emerges with particular force. Seeking out the perfect gifts, decorating the house perfectly, preparing the perfect meals…
But this year is different. As I honor my grief, other things have fallen away. Of course, the gifts are bought, the house looks festive, and I’m considering new recipes, but there is far less idealization and urgency.
Grief is the main factor, but there are also other things involved: an approaching (well-earned!) vacation precipitating a commitment to wrapping up year-end responsibilities in advance, watching close friends deal with serious, life-threatening illnesses, perhaps a general feeling of “been there done that,” or maybe it’s the magickal levelling up that I’ve been experiencing. No matter the cause—or combination thereof—life has seen fit to reveal to me what truly matters and what can easily be left on the curb for someone else to pick up.
I’m increasingly viewing perfection, the very idea of it, as another useless tool. How many times have I sat, unmoving, unable to pick up pen and paper (or, more realistically, type upon a blank document), my creativity stifled out of fear of not producing a flawless first draft? How many times have I chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to not try something because I was afraid to “do it wrong”? How many times have I remained silent about what I was feeling because I was afraid of expressing it inadequately? How many times have we all done this?
I know I am not the only one who is sometimes held back by these energies. Many of my tarot and healing clients have expressed the same thing. Women I have sat with for years in circle have shared stories where the desire for perfection has caused a complete shutdown around doing anything at all. I’ve heard many tales from many people about how much they wanted to do something, or knew they needed to do it, but just didn’t know where or how to start and didn’t want to draw attention, fail, or appear “stupid”.
What we often name “laziness” or “procrastination” is actually a fear of imperfection or, in other words, of not being good enough. Perfection is a fear of being punished in some way. Perfection comes from the ego, not from the heart or the spirit. Perfection block us, holds us back, and inspires us to live in reaction—a place built by fear instead of by confidence and power-within.
How much of what we do is in reaction to feelings of not being good enough? How often are we motivated by the need to please or receive approval from others? Whose approval are we seeking anyway? It’s definitely not that of our Sweet Selves. Our Sweet Selves love to learn and grow and transform, and don’t fear the “what might happen” that could result.
Unexamined and unowned perfectionism often leads to depression, anxiety, obsession, and compulsion. More dangerously, it can lead to an inability to do anything at all, an utter and complete and all-encompassing immobility. This stress does not make for a happy, healthy life filled with joy and exuberance and wonder.
Humans naturally observe and adapt, mirror and empathize, echo and mimic. We often wait to see how others behave in situations new to us to clue our own behavior. And when we couple this organic tendency with positions of leadership, another layer is revealed: people tend to hold leaders up as *the* way things are, *the* way things should be. We are no longer fully autonomous individuals when we are in leadership—we now are *the* example, *the* face of the community, *the* illustration of how to interact and react.
Like it or not, as leaders we are the ultimate models for the communities we serve; we are the de facto creators of the cultures in which we hold center. Our actions, proclivities, Shadows, likes and dislikes and prejudices form the very blueprint from which our communities are grown. Cases in point: If we arrive late, then others will begin to arrive late. If we are unprepared, then others will begin showing up unprepared. If we don’t do our work, then others won’t see any need to do their work. If our ritual energies are scattered, then others will begin appearing with scattered energies. If we take poor care of our bodies, then others will take poor care of their bodies. If we are found gossiping, then others will gossip. If we are perfectionists, then others will do their best to embody perfection.
I have witnessed communities break apart due to a leader’s unflinching demand for perfection. I’ve noticed that the more a leader clings to perfection, the more they project criticism and judgement outward into the community. The community members pick up on this, and then turn it around onto their peers. This creates a culture of horizontal violence that slowly and surely insinuates itself into the very infrastructure of the community, burrowing in and growing, cracking the foundation until it erodes. Finally, the community collapses and falls violently, causing such deep pain and scarring that the participants are often never fully healed.
When instead of perfection we choose to be real and authentic, to learn as we go and to do so visibly and *in public*, to make mistakes and even to fail, then others become willing to do the same. Like creates like. Good leadership requires vulnerability and risk-taking, courage and visibility.
In our community, rituals are predominantly improvised. This improvisation takes flight from the roots of many hours of advance research, a strong outline, solid preparation, and a deep technical understanding of the container we are working within. This is our commitment to Goddess—to allow Her to become present as *She* wishes for the rite—not as we wish.
This is a deliberate act of faith that She understands far better what is needed in any given moment in time, and the execution of it requires an immense amount of trust on the part of the First Priestess who must surrender at the right moment, and then resume control when appropriate. Attachment to perfection would mean that this could never happen. Because of this commitment, “Failure” is our living classroom. And there is, truly, no such thing as failure here—only a certain flawlessness that arises from the sacred presence of imperfection.
I’m gaining a certain appreciation for myself as I continue to do my absolute best in each and every moment: learning, growing, changing, and transforming, instead of pushing for that stagnant, lifeless “perfect”. Forgiveness and compassion—both for myself and for others—are ingredients I’m finding both helpful and necessary as I move fully away from seeking perfection into complete immersion in the striving for excellence.
I remember hearing many years ago the phrase, “Progress not perfection”. It is my intention to hold this as a holy mantra in the front of my mind and at the top of my heart. With peaceful purpose, I remember to focus on the big picture, to step outside and breathe, and to remind myself that I am not meant to be perfect in this lifetime.
1 & 2: Me
3: Borrowed with deep gratitude