Picture the scene. The Boardroom. A panel of interviewers. You’ve been there for half an hour, sweating and trying not to think about the borrowed heels that have cut off your circulation. You’ve answered question after question about why you’re perfect for this job. It’s going ok – until they bring out the big guns.
‘What’s your biggest weakness?’
What to say?
- I hate people? No, too soon.
- I’m lazy? They’ll work this out.
- When my blood sugar drops I start barking? No even your mother said keep this quiet.
Aha – got it.
I’m a perfectionist.
Yes sir, I just have to do a Sterling Job. Can’t help meself – Excellence is my middle name.
You’re feeling pretty smug. After all, who can fault someone who always does their best? How could it be anything but good?
Except, it’s not about doing your best, is it? And good is not good enough.
It’s not about working hard and then letting it go.
Perfectionism wears a tux, but it’s actually a killer. Whether in the office or at the gym or on the golf course or raising a family or trying to lose weight. It takes all you’ve got – but that’s still not enough.
Chesterton said that ‘if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly’. I’m with him on this. Because perfectionism doesn’t mean you push yourself to do your best. Instead it cripples you so you can’t even start.
We all know the difference between means and ends. Cinderella marries the Prince for love of him (he is the “end”). A Gold-digger marries the Billionaire for his fortune (he is the “means” to another, much less worthy, “end”). Perfectionism is emotional gold-digging. It turns everything into a means. Nothing is enjoyed for its own sake. There’s no rest in the moment, only a nervous eye on the end result. And will it be good enough? Scratch that. Will I be good enough?
Then a voice cuts through the busyness:
Martha, Martha, who are you cooking this banquet for? Cheese on toast would have done just fine. Take a seat with your sister and let me give you the verdict you’ve been striving for all your life. (Luke 10:41-42)