By Cady Inabinett, Editor in chief
Throughout my life, I have been known to be somewhat of a perfectionist.
This is not a label I would necessarily apply to myself, as I am too committed to the bit of trying to delude myself into believing that I am a relaxed and easygoing person, but even I must admit that those who level it against me have some points. So, needing to be good at everything I do all of the time makes me a perfectionist now? I’m not sure if I’m buying into that.
Sarcasm and attempts at self-delusion aside, I have to admit that I have a problem. I am a bit of perfectionist, and it is a bit of a problem sometimes.
Now, I’ll be the first to avow the virtues of perfectionism. Why would I not want to try to be the best I can be all the time? Is it wrong to strive for greatness? But, I think it’s necessary for all of us, myself included, to realize that perhaps perfectionism has a time and a place, and that, perhaps, well enough is good.
Let me put this anecdotally: I’ve owned a guitar since I was 18—a wonderful birthday gift from my parents. I love music and I could already play a couple of instruments by the time I was gifted my guitar. That was nearly four years ago now.
I love playing my guitar, it makes me genuinely very happy when I spend some time learning a new song. But, every time I sit down to play, I can’t shake this deep-seated sense of embarrassment that sours one of my favorite activities like a bad taste in my mouth. There’s always a little nagging voice in the back of my head that seems to be saying, “Why are you so bad at this? Why do you keep trying?”
I try to ignore these feelings and thoughts as much as I can, but, needless to say, it can all be a bit discouraging. As much as I hate to say it, there have definitely been times that I’ve avoided playing guitar because of these thought patterns.
But, I’ve realized it’s necessary to ask myself: What are the stakes here?
At the end of the day, there are no stakes to me being actually good at guitar, but there are effects and consequences of not playing at all. I’ll never get better if I avoid playing, of course, but also, when I don’t play or get overly critical when I do play, I cheat myself out of enjoying a hobby and having fun. Four years is a not insignificant amount of time—how much of that time have I spent feeling bad about doing something that I actually like doing?
I need to learn how to embrace sucking at things. There are probably countless activities and experiences that I’ve cheated myself out of just because I’ve been afraid of looking silly or being bad at them. And, I have to stop myself and ask, for what? To preserve my own delicate ego?
In my worldview, stagnation is the enemy of fulfillment—and the best friend and abettor of stagnation is fear. My fear of being not good at things leads me to stagnate, to only fall into the comfort of the familiar. My comfort is robbing me of so many opportunities. I think of all the things I’ve loved from afar—things like art and music—that I’ve often been too afraid to pursue and suddenly feel a lot of contempt for my own comfort. Maybe if I was more willing to be brave and suck at things, I would be a more fulfilled person.
I suck (at some things, sometimes), and that’s okay. Being good at everything is overrated, anyways. It’s time to embrace my suckiness.
Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.