Everywhere we look we see images of beautiful, successful people. We see them on billboards, we see them on television, and we read about them in magazines. They’re seemingly perfect. One thing that American culture continues to cultivate, is the pursuit of perfection. But, should perfection really be our goal? Should it be what we expect for and from our children? I am going to quickly answer those questions with a profound No! Perfection is not progressive. Instead, perfection hinders learning and achievement while creating superficial people. It produces people who lack contentment, yet fail to take the necessary steps to contribute to change. Perfection is the enemy. It keeps us from growing and it thoroughly denigrates the self-esteem of our children.
Now you may be thinking, “wow, the writer of this blog post seems very bias.” And I am. As a psychologist trainee and a doctoral student, I am aware of the pitfalls that perfection can lead to, because I have fallen into them. Imperfection on the other hand, I embrace. Broken things tend to invite people to repair them, incomplete things allure people to complete them, and mistakes summon people to fix them. Imperfection encourages us to learn, think outside of the box, and try alternatives. People become extremely resourceful and creative when they have immediate problems in front of them. Imperfection is radical.
How many of you have heard your child say something like this: “I don’t need to think about it, that formula tells me exactly how to do it,” or “I’m not as good as he is so why even try?” You may not have heard those exact words, but I am sure you have heard something along those lines. Moreover, how many of you have children that complain about being yelled at or ridiculed when they get an answer wrong while in class? Unfortunately, formal education is primarily concerned with setting standards, meeting requirements, and providing models of perfection for students to follow. But these benchmarks for perfection in school curriculums and standardized testing can easily impede creativity and continued learning. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that we encourage the idea of imperfection and lifelong learning in ourselves and our children.
We must realize that everything has imperfection in it, that everything can be improved, and that imperfection is acceptable. Not only is it acceptable, it is needed. When our children make mistakes, we should use them as positive learning opportunities. We should not become upset, or impatient. Mistakes are a pivotal aspect of growth. Being inflexible and teaching our children inflexibility does not promote critical thinking. On the contrary, it discourages them from taking initiative, takes away from the fun of learning, and ultimately leads to disenfranchisement from education. There is no challenge, no struggle, and no room for improvement in perfection. Accept and promote the idea of imperfection and your child will blossom.