“This ‘perfectionist gene’ that too many young women have holds them back, and instead they should be really aiming for ‘good enough.’ You don’t have to be perfect.”
It reminded me, of course, of studio culture in architecture school. Men and women sacrifice their sleep, their eating habits, social lives, etc—in other words, their physical and mental health—to do one more render or drawing or make overly elaborate models. I have found that many architecture students subconsciously feel that if they don’t suffer for their work, it’s not any good. They give up everything in their lives trying to make their work perfect. They’ll admit that their work is already really good and they have more than enough, but they still don’t believe it’s perfect and therefore unacceptable. I’m in grad school, and I’m told that it’s even worse for undergrads.
Of course, the problem is that perfection is unattainable in a creative field. Perfection is black or white. Creativity works in shades of gray, and every piece of work can be tweaked indefinitely. Searching for perfection is recipe for constant disappointment.
A couple of years ago, I got some advice to focus on excellence instead of perfection. They used an example from baseball. A perfect batting record is 1.000; but the highest career batting average by an active player in the MLB is 0.320 by Miguel Cabrera (according to the MLB). That means he gets a hit on less than 1/3 of his at-bats. If baseball coaches only accepted perfection, they wouldn’t have a team. A 33% success rate is excellent, but not perfect.
Excellence is achievable, perfection is impossible. I try to remind my friends and myself to go easy on ourselves and not get stuck chasing perfection. We’re more productive and happier when we strive for excellence.