Reflection on Perfection

Lately I have given lots of thought to the pursuit of perfection.

Maybe it is because I have a rising Junior in High School who worries that she isn’t “perfect” enough for college.  Maybe it is because I have an 8th grader who worries that she has weaknesses that will make high school challenging.  Maybe it is because I worry all the time that I may not be making the right decisions in everything!

Before our Spring Break, I had the chance to see a presentation by Dr. Ken Ginsberg, an esteemed pediatrician specializing in Adolescent Medicine in Philadelphia and the author of several insightful books.  He often goes on the lecture circuit, and I highly recommend him if he shows up in your town.  Dr. Ken is my new favorite guru.  He spoke about building resilience in teens and handling stress in life.  His message was not focused on a short-term quest to “get your kid into Harvard” but rather a long term goal to ensure that your “child becomes a content 35 year old”.  He captivated me with funny anecdotes, researched facts, and unbridled enthusiasm that was contagious.

thIn a nutshell, Dr. Ken celebrates the “spiky” child, the kid with tremendous strengths offset by various weaknesses.  The kid whose life reads like a shaky polygraph printout, full of ziggy ups and zaggy downs.

Dr. Ken makes the case that this imperfect child learns to works collaboratively with others out of necessity; he learns early that he needs to rely on the strengths of others to balance his weaknesses.  According to research, this child is more likely to become a leader who works well with others, a friend who shares empathy, a parent who practices patience, and a spouse who stays in a marriage.

The spiky kid grows up to be the content 35 year old.  This reassures me.

The pursuit of perfection often breeds the fear of making mistakes.  I got an email from a friend recently who forwarded a message from her daughters’ middle school headmistress:

Mistakes are a part of life, and rainy difficult days are a part of the cycle of life.  Not every day can be sunny and filled with happiness and accomplishment. Each one of you has a story, something which makes your life challenging in some way. Whatever your challenge is … that challenge will make your stronger.

Coincidentally, in my never-ending quote quest, I had just purchased a card that day with a message that inspired me.  It, too, references the rainy day, the storms of turmoil in our imperfect lives:

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.

Anything that provides a silver lining for rain — proverbial or real — works for me, especially living in London!  I’ll have to get my dancing shoes on since we have decided to stay here another year.

Mistake?  I don’t think so.

Perfect?  Not really. 

Spiky?  Definitely.



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