Destination Perfection: You're in for a Bumpy Ride
By Colette Harris
There’s no getting around the ups and downs of sports. They’re going to be there everyday, every month, every year. While most of us, myself included, would just like to avoid the bad times – the injuries, the bad practices, disagreements with coaches or teammates – those are the moments that actually teach us the most about ourselves and how to handle situations on and off the field. Athletes have this tendency to want everything to be perfect all the time, but eventually we all have to learn that constant perfection is an impossibility. If you can learn to look at “imperfect” practices and meets as opportunities for personal growth it can vastly improve your sports experience.
When I was younger I had a difficult time dealing with perfection and demanding perfection from myself at all times. I put so much pressure on myself to be the perfect skater and to please those around me that a bad practice or low placement at competition felt like a personal affront. I didn't know how to work through those feelings so I ignored them instead. I think many athletes do this. We bury feelings of disappointment, fear, or anger because it threatens our idea that we need to be perfect all the time.
When I skated, my first reaction to less than perfect practices and competitions was to RUN. THE. HECK. AWAY. I wanted to put as much emotional and physical distance between myself and a bad skate as possible. Why? Because if I didn’t perform perfectly in meant something about me. It allowed that shred of doubt to pop into my head and caused me to wonder, am I really good enough?
Fast forward to 2016 and I’m about to launch the site you’re currently reading. The first few months everything was “perfect.” I hit the goals I’d set, feedback was great, and it looked like the launch would go off without a hitch.
Then, I offered my site’s services to someone and they said no. I kept sending emails to potential business partners and heard nothing back. It was hard to secure interviews with sources and make the story deadlines I set for myself.
In short, things weren’t “perfect” anymore. It got tough. And do you know what my first thought was? This is too hard. I should stop this project because it’s not perfect anymore. Translation: I should run away because I am not good enough to pull this off.
I couldn’t believe that years after I stopped competing, I had the exact same thoughts I had when a skating practice wasn’t perfect! My fear of not maintaining perfection and disappointing others was affecting my desire to accomplish yet another big goal.
This time though, I didn’t act on impulse and give up. Instead, it was time for some real talk with myself. I had to ask, am I going to give up on a dream that is so important to me or am I going to push through, take the good with the bad, and do the best I can, even if it’s not always going to be “perfect?”
Since you’re reading this post you know what I decided to do. Things were far from perfect the day I officially launched GOLD. Every time I publish a new story I worry about how it will be received, just as I worried about how the judges would receive my competitive programs when I was younger. I am constantly experimenting with content, website design, and marketing ideas and not everything I try is going to be one hundred percent perfect from the start.
I realize now that the desire to be “perfect” never seems to disappear completely. However, we can change how we respond to that desire and how it affects our ability to be happy and accomplish our dreams. While I still worry about perfection and pleasing others, I’ve learned to not let that worry stop me from pursuing my goals. Instead of wanting to run away when things get tough, I now ask myself, what is the best thing I can do in this moment to keep moving forward? I find there’s always some small action I can take to improve my situation. Each small step taken shows me that I can handle difficult times. As my confidence grows my need for perfection lessens. Even though it’s scary, I keep putting one foot in front of the other because the fear of going after what I really want is now greater than the fear of not being perfect.
In the end all we can ask is that we do our best each day. So the next time the fear of imperfection creeps up remind yourself that life gets messy sometimes, but as long as you keep taking your next right step everything will work out as its supposed to.