“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly”

This month’s article was about how needing to be perfect—an impossibility—stops us from knowing that we are enough. That doing our best is all that we need to do. For Stacy, her need to be perfect came at the cost of enjoying the learning process.

Stacy had always been a great student. From elementary school through university, she excelled at her studies. She had always had an interest in languages and decided to study German while at college. She, of course, excelled at it. She got all top scores on reading and writing the language, but she struggled with being able to speak it—especially in informal settings.

When she finally visited Germany, ready to use her language skills, she found herself unable to grasp the vocabulary to have even the most basic conversation. She froze up, unable to communicate. What she had planned on being an exciting post-college trip, became an embarrassment.

When she had a chance for some self-reflection, she realized that she was terrified of making a mistake. She was so used to being a perfect student that she couldn’t face not being a “perfect” speaker of another language. As Susan wrote in End the Struggle and Dance With Life, “By always wanting to do everything just so, we may not accept new challenges because we are worried that we won’t be able to do them perfectly the first time through.”

Like Stacy, many of us think that in order to be good enough, we have to be perfect, and since no one is perfect, no one is good enough. Doesn’t that seem like a ridiculous line of thinking? According to Susan, “The truth is…We are all good enough! And no one is perfect! Even the Buddhas have their days!”

In this context, Susan referred to Linda Weltner’s motto: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”

Susan said, “Understand the great wisdom in her humor. We have been taught that we should go for excellence in anything we attempt. We are afraid of making a fool of ourselves (whatever that means!). Therefore, if we don’t do it really well, we don’t have a good time. Or we refrain from doing it at all. We must keep reminding ourselves, that…Our goal is to enjoy, not to achieve perfection!”

For Stacy, it wasn’t until a few years later that she learned to enjoy speaking German. She joined a club for German speakers and leaned into her mistakes. By doing so, she was eventually able to speak nearly fluently. But the important thing about it was that she enjoyed being able to communicate in another language.

As Susan wrote, “If it’s worth doing and you’re having a great time doing it, who cares if you are doing it well or not?”