Perfectionism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
Francesca Battistelli has it all right in her song “Free to Be Me”.
Listen and sing along:
“Gotta couple of dents in my fender, got a couple of rips in my jeans, Try to fit the pieces together, but
perfectionism is my enemy. On my own, I’m so clumsy, but on Your shoulders, I can see….I’m free to be me!”
I am constantly reminded of my own insecurities and my own imperfections, but if I could simply remember that everyone is in the same boat, I would be so much better off! Breast cancer tried to knock me down, but Dave and I, with a whole bunch of prayer warriors and well-wishers among you all have taught me so much these past few months.
First of all, flesh is only flesh. We are well on our way to the final surgery at which time much of my upper body will not be what God originally gave me, but He gave me the blessing of doctors who know exactly what they are doing to get me back up and feeling “free to be me”.
Second of all, a great 12-step program I know a good bit about talks about how we should aim for progress, not perfection. A dear guy I met about 17 years ago in Niceville, FL used to tell a story about progress versus perfection. You have to put on your best Southern accent to say this story right, so get ready:
“So, you got this dawg. The dawg has so many ticks on him, he can’t hardly move anymore. Those dad-gum ticks are suckin’ the blood out of that dawg. So whatcha gotta do is pick some of them ticks off that dawg. Now, don’t get me wrong. You could pick all of them off if you got the time, but even if you get some of them ticks off that poor ole dawg, his whole dad-gum body won’t be sucked up by them ticks no more. It’s about progress, not perfection.”
Yep, I get that. I work with teachers and administrators all over the country who want to be “highly effective” or “distinguished” in their teaching or evaluating craft. The best thing I’ve heard a principal say to his staff (while we are all learning peer observation skills together, by the way, and he stays the ENTIRE time I ever work with his teachers) is, “I want you to remember I am learning right along with you. I’m going to make mistakes; you are going to make mistakes. But if we’re all in this together, and you trust me, we’ll keep moving forward.” Way to go, Mark, and to all of you out there, committed to becoming better educators and educational leaders.
Finally, I saw this quote and loved it, although I can’t quite attribute it to any specific author:
"There's no need to be perfect to inspire others.Let people get inspired by how you deal with your own imperfections."
Maybe what we all need to do is show a bit of vulnerability to one another to invite others to be vulnerable alongside us. If we admit we don’t know it all, but we are willing to try alongside each other to be better, we may just end up better skilled than we ever thought we could be. I admit this is the reason I believe so strongly in teaming in schools. I am not necessarily talking about team-teaching but the aspect of working cohesively as a unit (grade level team, content area, departments, etc.) to include principals in a district working together as a team. Imagine a school or district in which anyone can raise their hand in a planning/PD meeting, say “Hey, I just read this great article on improving engagement in our students. Anyone want to get together after school tomorrow, read it with me, and brainstorm some ways we can add new strategies to our classrooms?” and a boatload of people nod heads and say, “We can do it in my room---I have big kid chairs” and someone else says, “I’ll bring snack mix.” I’ve seen it and watched it in action.
It’s progress, not perfection.
What is one thing you could do today to begin working towards progress but not perfection in your own life? Tell me, tell me, I really want to know!!
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