We live in a society obsessed with perfection. We take fourteen versions of a selfie to make sure we look the best. We write and rewrite status updates and messages to each other trying to sound witty or smart. We buy clothes that accentuate our best features.
Perfectionism is one of the most insidious things. It’s like a cult and is getting worse by the day because we live in a visual society. The onus to present something perfect is huge. It centers around achieving success and doing so in record-breaking time. Look no further than, “Forbes List of Millionaires Under 30.”
This obsession with perfection has leaked its way into almost every facet of our lives. Stretching the truth and heightening our accomplishments in order to impress others are signature traits of this decadence. In doing so, we amplify the good and minimize the bad distorting the reality of our present situation. As a result, we never feel good enough, pretty enough, rich enough, or smart enough.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no such thing as perfection. I’ve learned this first-hand. Since law school, I have been consumed with choosing the best words and constructing the cleanest, most literary sentences. I lived my life according to the famous saying by Mark Twain, “Use the right word, not its second cousin. The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. It is the difference between the lightening and the lightening bug.”
Yet, whenever I look at the transcripts of one of my closing arguments, I can’t help but cringe! They are replete with grammatical errors, filler words, run-on sentences, and an overall bastardization of the English language that would cause my fourth-grade English teacher to roll-over in her grave.
This resulted in an epiphany of sorts. The numerous imperfections that I was so ashamed of and that I spent sleepless nights obsessing over were the very marks of authenticity that the jury heard with their hearts.
As Gerry Spence teaches, “People who speak from the heart do not choose the best words and render the most eloquent sentences.” As hard a pill as this might be to swallow, jurors like the lawyer who repeats himself, doesn’t finish his sentences, mashes the syntax, and mixes up the tenses.
Why? Because it shows that he is human. It’s real and honest and leaves jurors with a deeper and longer-lasting impression than the most poetic verse that can be strung together. Today, I no longer have to think so hard in order to find the words to express the feelings that are welling up inside of me. Instead, they come gushing out of me like a spring from an honest and truthful place – my heart.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to suggest that words are unimportant. The old expression, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never harm me” is false. Words of rejection, words of betrayal, words of hatred land hard and are as lethal as a dagger. For example, the death sentence handed down by a judge is composed merely of words.
To get off the ferris wheel of perfection, my advise it to get comfortable with imperfection. To steel a page from Winston Churchill’s playbook, take a walk with the “black dog.” Winston Churchill famously referred to his gloomy periods as his “black dog.” Whenever he’d wake up on the wrong side of the bed, Mr. Churchill would say, “I have got a black dog on my back today.” Rather than suppress the sadness, he’d allow the black dog to follow him around and would even take him for a good long walk.
While I’m using “black dog” as a metaphor for “imperfection” and not for “depression,” the point is the same. Instead of suppressing your imperfection, why not take it for a good long walk. Hey, you never know.