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Our society has many self-help maxims which say, in effect, "strive for perfection." Do your best. Never say die. Onward and upward. Don't admit defeat. So on and so forth, ad nauseum.

I can remember during my childhood being unable to finish anything because it wasn't perfect. When writing an assignment for class, I never used an eraser to correct a mistake. I took a fresh sheet of paper and started over again. Each letter, each pencil stroke, had to be perfectly vertical or aligned, neither too high off the base line nor dipping too low beneath it.

Every item in my little desk was set just so, and I would be very upset if someone went into my desk and rearranged them, or--horrors!--jostled them about.

I can remember my mother giving me the following advice, and as a result, probably saving me from years of self-criticism, sorrow and failure:

It's ok to make a mistake. Some projects are not worth your efforts at perfection and 'pretty good' will be good enough for them.

Forgive yourself if you make a mistake. It's ok, you are not a bad person because of it. You can either try again or decide that the effort is not worth the pain (this was said when I proved a failure at ice skating because of my weak ankles). There are other activites at which you may excel.

She was right. Some things are worth pursuing perfection for, and some are not. The people you love (and most certainly the ones who are most difficult to love) are never going to be perfect (by your definition at least)--and you are not here to pass judgment on them anyway.

So relax and enjoy your life, imperfections and all.

Thanks, Mom.

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