I am a recovering perfectionist. I’ve always had high standards of myself, but I’ve never demanded perfection from others. In fact, even when I’ve been hard on myself, I’ve still been encouraging others to be kinder on themselves.
I’m too ‘nice’ to be a perfectionist when it comes to other people… or so I thought.
Until this week, when I found myself printing at midnight, after a 2 hour drive back from Leeds, when I should have been getting some sleep before my workshop the next morning.
I thought I had it all worked out. I knew it was going to be a bit of a 3 day marathon. I’d scoped ahead, taken a deep breath and gotten everything prepared and lined up in advance. For once, I wasn’t the one leaving it to the last minute.
This time it was someone else. Someone else’s mistake and oversight that I had to sacrifice sleep to rectify.
Disaster was averted, and even though I had a terrible night’s sleep, the workshop went brilliantly.
But it did get me thinking. Yes it was someone else’s mistake. Yes they should have spotted it. Yes they could have given themselves more time (I know it’s also been a busy season for them). No, it wasn’t my job to make sure they did theirs. And yes, we will be having a conversation about it. (Thankfully, I knew better than to fire off an email when tired and very grumpy!)
I realised this:
When my schedule is so tight that there is no margin for error, then by default I am demanding perfection – not just from me – but from everyone around me.
Because I simply have no time to accommodate mistakes.
- No time for the waiter who’s got my order wrong.
- No time for the learner driver who’s stalled at the roundabout.
- No time for the cashier who’s trying to get to grips with the till on their first day.
- No time for my kids to have a meltdown at the door.
- No time for my colleague to notice let alone recover from their mistake.
And here is my dilemma.
I know we are all human. I believe absolutely passionately in being human. Being superhuman is a lie that robs us of life and there is beauty in imperfection.
But to live this out in the day to day, I need to live in a way where I am not stretched to my limits. Where things don’t fall apart if someone drops the ball. Where I have margin: room to accommodate mistakes, hiccups and delays. And I need to do that, in order to be kind – not just to myself, but to others around me too.
As one of my favourite sayings go, “Always be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”
And that is how I want to live. I want to be that person. The person who has time to stop and smile, and wait, rather than the person who rolls her eyes, freaks out and demands better service. The person who has time to have a constructive conversation, and give someone the chance to make amends and rebuild trust, rather than the person who resigns herself to resentfully doing everything herself.
I wonder, what would the world be like, if we all had more time for each other’s mistakes?
I’d love to hear your take on this. Go ahead and speak your mind in the comments below.