In my opinion, imperfection sculpts a better person. In her writer’s tip-book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott claims the most challenging thing about writing is forcing your butt into the seat—and I agree. Now, it’s not that I don’t like writing. I actually enjoy it when the inspiration kicks in. But what keeps me from writing is my need for perfection.
When I write, I obsess over every sentence and take way too long refining words. This takes time; suddenly, writing term papers and news articles become an exhausting task. I end up procrastinating on writing assignments because I fear exerting so much effort to make them perfect, but ironically by procrastinating, I’m wasting potential writing time.
So to combat perfectionism, Lamott recommends writing whatever comes to mind, which prevents obsessively refining every sentence. I always hesitate to employ her method because ungodly talk always escapes my mind onto the page. But with enough time and attention, the jumbled sentences evolve into a cohesive essay.
My need for perfection extends beyond writing and into my personal life. In conversations, I fear speaking wrong, telling hurtful jokes, and even speaking up against wrongdoing. Whenever I hang out with friends, I’m often the one listening and them talking. They even ask me personal questions, hoping I speak, but I always deflect attention because my religious intuition demands I go last—and stay last.
Involving myself in conversations helps me conquer my fears of imperfection. When the weight of listening becomes too heavy, I bring up what I think—even when they don’t ask—forcing the other person to surrender control and listen. Even though talking more means a greater likelihood of speaking wrong, it keeps conversations going, strengthens my friendships, and helps the other person feel at ease—unlike before, when I stared blankly into their eyes, waiting for them to finish.
But I didn’t get to this point without my fair share of foot-in-mouth moments. On a rampage of talking more, I rudely interrupted my youth minister during a phone call and shouted something like, “I’m talking!” A few days later, he told me he felt disrespected and that I acted immaturely. This incident reminded me why I stick to listening: talking hurts people.
After my youth minister told me he felt disrespected, I apologized. I think God was proud of me. Yes, I let my emotions steer my tongue, but I recognized my mistake and apologized. I came to the conclusion that God made humans intentionally emotional, insecure, and attention-seeking. We need imperfection; otherwise, we’d never grow.