I recently came across the children’s book Ish, by Peter Reynolds. Ish tells the story of a little boy named Ramon who loves to draw, until one day his older brother makes fun of him because his drawing of a vase doesn’t look very much like a vase. This makes Ramon incredibly self conscious and takes the love and fun out of drawing until finally Ramon gives up. Then Ramon finds out that his younger sister, Marisol, has been saving all of his drawings and hanging them in her room and that his picture of a vase is her favorite. Ramon tells her that she shouldn’t like it because it doesn’t look like a vase and Marisol replies, “well, it looks vase-ish.” The idea of ish opens up a whole new world for Ramon. When he realizes that his drawings don’t have to be perfect his love of drawing returns. Ramon draws pictures that are tree-ish, boat-ish, fish-ish, afternoon-ish, and happy-ish. Besides being a fun book for those who are young (or young at heart) Ish teaches an important lesson about the dangers of perfectionism.
Perfectionism is something that seems appealing at first; who wouldn’t want to be perfect all the time? In reality, however, perfectionism can be a very damaging characteristic. After all, nobody can be perfect and so someone who is striving for perfection will end up being disappointed. Perfectionism can lead to depression, anxiety, self-confidence issues, relationship difficulties, and eating disorders. Additionally, perfectionism also spells death to productivity as it leads to procrastination. Someone who is so determined that everything must be perfect will often delay starting or completing a task for fear that they will not do it correctly. Like with Ramon, it can also kill creativity. The creative process is one that is full of roadblocks, false starts, and other imperfections. Finally, perfectionism prevents growth. Mistakes are a learning opportunity, but when they are viewed critically or as something that should not be allowed then it becomes harder to learn from them.
Perfectionism is usually a learned behavior. That means most people who are perfectionists often have parents, grandparents, caregivers, or teachers who were or are perfectionists. This is one of the many reasons that we should all be careful what we say and do around young children. They pick up on more than most people realize and are accomplished mimics. It is important for us all to be more aware of our perfectionist tendencies both for ourselves and for the Ramons in our lives. Go forth and make mistakes. Embrace them. Live a little more ishly.
This blog was written by our intern, Hannah Shaffett.