This morning I was driving my daughter to school and she asked, “Mom, am I a perfectionist?”
My daughter likes to do things well. She also likes to win.
The doing things well part she gets from me and the winning part she gets from her dad. This morning she was watching Sports Center before we left for school. She is nine years old.
I answered my daughter that yes, sometimes she is a perfectionist. This conversation has been going on for years. When she started school it became painfully obvious. Each mark or grade that wasn’t a perfect score resulted in tears and upset. She is one year ahead of other kids her age and scores in the top percentile on national assessment tests. She’s in a talented and gifted program and goes above and beyond the call of elementary school duty. She is, indeed, exceptional. But she is not perfect.
I reminded her again that there is no such thing as perfect; as long as we are doing our best, it’s always good enough. She either rolled her eyes or shrugged her shoulders, I’m not sure which. When I looked over to gauge her state of being, she looked unconvinced.
This perfection thing perturbs me. I know it very well. It’s taken a long stretch of my life to lay this burden down — I still find myself picking it back up once and a while. Yesterday I was at a cancer support center giving a talk about meditation to cancer patients and their family members and caregivers. The content of the talk was high level, meant to clear up misconceptions about meditation and share the amazing benefits of the practice. It is content that I know a lot about, am passionate about, and love talking about.
This time, however, I was feeling a bit tired from just returning from a trip to L.A. and hadn’t given my presentation much of a go-through beforehand. I was nervous and felt a little disconnected from my self; not exactly sure what I was going to say. I gave the talk and felt the entire thing was, if I were to grade it, a B-minus – and that was being generous. It bothered me deeply that I hadn’t been as “on-fire” as I wanted to be and I felt like I let the group down.
Keeping a smile on my face and composure in place, I invited anyone with a desire to learn to receive a registration form for the upcoming meditation class. A few people approached and then a few more. Soon, my stack of forms was gone and I still had people wanting to sign up. I was happy to know my next class would be full but the shocking part was the comments people left me with.
They were so positive and appreciative – they told me they were fascinated by what they heard and that they loved the presentation and were so excited to learn to meditate. A nurse invited me to speak to her diabetes support group. A young woman asked me if I could teach her young son with ADHD, another wrote a heartfelt thank you note on the bottom of her registration form.
I don’t know what I said that rang their bells. I do know that I showed up with a pure intention and did the best I could. Do I feel I could have presented better? Yes – on a different day. Yesterday – I was perfect enough.