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  • Dr. Andrew Martin

"The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection." ― George Orwell

Perfectionism will mess you up. Yet, how we can harness the motivation to excel outside of being perfect can be an elusive task. Perfectionism, by its very definition, is an unobtainable standard that has left many creative and talented individuals discouraged in their efforts and abandoning goals that they hold dear. Those that do persevere are often tormented by the fear that they will never be perfect, that somehow they will fall short or be found out to be lacking in some way. Perfectionism demands that we exist in a binary and sell off the diverse, complex, and multi-faceted aspects of ourselves that give us richness life in life and, as the quote says, make us beautiful.


Rather than pursuing the ever-moving goalposts of perfectionism, consider cultivating a model of excellence. Excellence, a far more forgiving standard to pursue, allows you to be you, allows you to pursue greatness, and allows you to relate to you shortcomings in a way that you not only own them, but can profit from what they can teach you. The ancient Greeks cultivated what was called Arete, which was what they considered to be excellence of any kind. They defined this quality as a moral virtue and the beauty of this concept was that Arete could be applied on an infinite number of levels for an individual. This is concept lost in most corners of popular culture today, where we only care about the outcome, and not the struggle or process.


In reorienting ourselves to the ancient wisdom packed into the concept of Arete, one must first recognize and own what exists within you already – both the good and the rough-hewn. Only in that honest appraisal of where you are today can you liberate yourself to grow into the areas in which you fear yourself to be lacking. This process requires a commitment to working on your relationship with yourself, a commitment to embracing what you may initially might find unlovable within yourself, and a trust that in doing so you can set yourself on the path to excellence.


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