At times, I spent my life as a perfectionist. Often talking about how I wouldn’t do things if I didn’t know I could do them well. I would rather just “sit it out” or pretend I didn’t want to play. It took me most of my adult life to write my book. I was afraid I wouldn’t do it just write, so it was easier to not do it at all.
As a coach, I was often asked how to help motivate someone’s daughter or player.
“She doesn’t seem to try hard.” “Sometimes it seems like the effort just isn’t there.”
I have heard all of it. And I always go back to the same thing. Perfectionism rears its ugly head at times we wish it wouldn’t. And sometimes it can mask itself to look like apathy when inside, that player wants nothing more than to please her coach.
In trying to figure out what to write for so long putting blogs together for my book, I would often use the excuse that I had writer’s block. And while that is a real thing, sometimes I believe it was my not wanting to do it sub-par. I get it when someone doesn’t give all out effort because they are afraid it won’t be perfect or right or the best. But then I started to shed all that and realized that when we focus on the process, which I speak about all the time, the outcome will take care of itself. We don’t really have to worry about it after all.
The Olympics are upon us. We watch a bunch of perfectionists learn how to not be perfect. We watch some come up short. The best in the world… Come up short. And we wonder why if they spent their whole lives preparing for this. Or we just congratulate them for coming this far. But in the end, it’s all the same. Some will stand on a podium with a gold medal and some will not. And if we are honest for a moment with ourselves, we will realize how we, too, beat ourselves up on a daily basis for not always getting the medal, or standing on the podium when we think we “should.” Life has a way of reminding us that we need to lose out too, as much as we need to know the trill of the victory. We need to fall down so we learn how to rise again, and we need to know how to boost our confidence each time we win the hard one.
And all of a sudden it becomes clear. We are human. Just like the 8 year-old on the little league team and the Olympian in the pool. Nothing changes but our ability to find the beauty in the imperfect. And for those of us somewhere in the middle, we remind ourselves every day that to truly know what it is like to win, we need to do things we have never done. We need to try things in ways we are afraid to do because we may not be great at first. And we most certainly need to be ok with learning along the away. We can’t ever go from never doing something to being an Olympian with one try. That we know. So maybe we need to remind ourselves that the next time we watch a player seem to be afraid to give effort, maybe it’s not due to lack of desire or laziness, but maybe her fear of imperfection.
And so remind her that there is real beauty and strength in the imperfect.