When I was in high school I joined the Basketball team for a year or so. I’m not sure what exactly drew me to the idea. It could be because Basketball was widely accepted as a cool sport and a source of pride at my school. Or maybe it was a random thought stemming from my childhood love of watching the NBA. Growing up, I often pictured myself in a not-too-distant future, replicating Michael Jordan’s dribbles with ease and finesse.  High school finally presented the grand stage to play out my childhood aspirations.
As a first step when joining the team, we had to take measurements of our calves and arms which were then publicly displayed on a wall that acted as our makeshift notice board. Already, it was plastered with pieces of paper, ripped, dirtied and glued over each other. My name was right there, almost at the bottom but I didn’t mind. Past basketball legends at our school had their names put up on this same wall. Being part of it meant that you had a real shot at going down as one of the greats.
Being among the skinniest, shortest players on the team by then, I was automatically relegated to team ‘B’. I actually preferred to start there and then work my way up. I felt like I had a lot to offer but only if I was given time. For now, I was glad to be part of a great team moreover, without as much pressure as some of the star athletes on the team. On the day we finally got to our first training we were all randomly thrown into the pitch for a very vigorous work out after which we practised executing various well-coordinated moves by following what the more experienced members of the team were doing. I can’t really tell why, but that afternoon my mojo was completely off. I kept missing shots, throwing weak passes and just not moving as fast as I was expected to. All those shiny moves that I had lined up in my head turned to shit when the rubber finally kissed the road. I realised I was not as good as I had initially thought.
Our Basketball coach was a caucasian man by the name of Greg. His style of coaching was somewhere north of intense headed to gruesome. He demanded everything out of you. Unluckily for me, my clumsy moves caught his eye that afternoon and he descended upon me heavily. Blowing his whistle in my face, screaming command after command, he seemed to almost instantaneously improve the quality of play from everyone else around me while having the exact opposite effect on me. Anytime he would be yelling my name or screaming a set of instructions, I would drop the ball and fuck up even worse (or at least that’s how it felt). Eventually, the training stopped being fun and very fast started becoming a blight on my esteem. I was so thoroughly embarrassed by my fuckery to the point that it didn’t feel worth being on the team anymore.

If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect – I can avoid or minimize criticism, blame and ridicule; perfectionism keeps us from being seen.

— Brene Brown

I didn’t realize it at first but slowly, I started missing training and finding other more interesting things to do till eventually, I became estranged from the team. On the occasions I would consider going back, my mind would conjure up images of my first days as I made a fool of myself and it didn’t sound like a very exciting thing to repeat. I wasn’t ready to start feeling like a liability to anyone just yet. Instead, I wanted not only to feel good enough to be on the team but every inch the perfect player. Fast. Strong. Intuitive. Creative. Graceful. Charismatic.
In the end, I dropped out because I thought I still had some work to do on myself before I could become good enough to play with everyone else. I was sure that if I was able to work in isolation, perhaps under less pressure, I could eventually become just as good as my teammates if not better. Unfortunately, rarely is good talent manifested in a vacuum. My noble intentions to rejoin the team drowned in the space that I created for myself to improve. Instead, it inadvertently became filled with so many other pursuits that basketball was relegated to an afterthought.
To this day I am still working on it. You know, becoming good enough and if I can, perfect enough to finally join the team. Problem is, I have this very problem with many other sets of talents and skills that I’m still… well, honing. Till when? I’m not too sure. I guess we’ll both have to wait until they’re perfect enough to unveil to the world.
I have perfectionist tendencies and I’m aware of it.
They’re crippling, bogging and a sap on my energy and creativity but thing is, even if I was given the chance I wouldn’t give them up. I relish the comments people make when they point out just how happy, my perfect piece of work made them feel. A guilty pleasure for me is getting feedback that I hit the just the right spot for a client. It gives me an unimaginable sense of triumph and achievement. And slowly, I find myself falling into the trap of chasing perfection.
Every project becomes an opportunity to overdo shit and go all hawkeye on the tiniest of details. In the process, I become less experimental and develop an aversion to failure. I become that kid who has perfectly stacked his playing blocks so very many stories high that he is afraid of even breathing anywhere near the structure. I’m afraid that even the slightest of mistakes could bring my magnificent creations tumbling down and therefore, wiggle-room for experimentation becomes too high a risk.
It is in this quagmire of perfection that some fallacies I’ve singled out in my own thinking, take root. There is the fallacy where I almost always never feel ready or skilled enough to handle shit. I always feel like I could use just a little tiny bit of polishing up before I’m good to go. To be honest, this almost always happens in spite of how well prepared I think I am.
Then there’s the one where I start believing that If I segregate myself and keep clocking in my hours in isolation, I could somehow move so far ahead that I would finally measure up to everyone’s perfect standards. I mean,  don’t we all blush at the idea of being that rare maverick who sharpens his wits in isolation and before springing up on the rest of the population with his untamed genius?
Not forgetting the fallacy where I think I could do so much more if only I had better tools.  There’s a huge chance that I’m right about that; if I had a better camera I would take better photos and perhaps become a much more accomplished photographer. Or maybe if I had a more powerful computer I would be a better designer/coder and so on and so forth.
But even as valid as these excuses are, I know they’re only lies I tell myself and enshroud with enough reason for them to pass off as truths. There are countless records of people who started out far worse than I did, perhaps with even less talent but have busted their asses until they did phenomenal shit.  Furthermore, it has been proven by science that perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand. People who want to only give perfect results will put off working a lot of projects until they feel that their work/ideas meet the high standards they have set for themselves. They might also feel like they almost always lack the capacity to handle projects coming their way. They hate curveballs. Unpredictable stuff.
The tragic beauty of all this is that the long incubation periods that perfect ideas call for is not a luxury anyone can afford in terms of either money or time. If you take too long to do something, there’s a high chance that you might never do it or when you finally come around to doing it, it might be too late. Trends might have changed. A new stronger competitor could be on the market. What’s more, you might still lack the capacity to handle the job even then.

You have to get bad to get good.

— Paula Scher

That said, it doesn’t mean that perfectionism is a bad thing. Most of the world’s foremost experts and talents across all fields wear their self-acknowledged perfectionist badges up their sleeves. They will often outwork and very soon outpace everyone they work alongside. Inspirational books are packed with stories about the Marilyn Monroes, Christiano Ronaldos, Steve Jobs and other highly regarded personalities who overexerted themselves and pushed the standards of what was thought as good enough to astronomical heights. Our society places a high premium on that lone ranger who ventures out to polish an idea, skill or talent and does it so well that he/she redefines what was previously thought possible.
The pursuit for perfection, however, should not come at the price of eternal stagnation adduced by the fear to break things. Staying too long in this state of stasis creates a fertile breeding ground for mental conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar, suicidal thoughts among others. The more you look at it, the more you realize that perfection is not only a strive for unprecedented excellence but it is a way of looking at yourself. Most perfectionists have high standards because they cannot reconcile with an imperfect image of themselves. Perfectionism in how they do things is, therefore, a projection of who they are and who they want to be. They are trying so hard not to fail at this one thing ahead of them that they don’t see it; they’re failing at a million other things.
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