Rags to Riches

from rags to bags 4

Photograph by Lawrence Antaran

Have you ever watched a performer or athlete and thought, “Wow, he is so good at that? He must have been born with a gift or started really young.”

The voice of perfectionism taunts me to believe that people who get it right, who excel at their trade, are some how gifted from birth and anyone who isn’t born with a gift is doomed. That’s rubbish!

There are people who were born with amazing talents, but most of us who excel at our craft — whether it’s writing, music, art, scrapbooking, home making, knitting or sports — have worked really, really hard for the success we have. We fall on our own or get knocked down by others but we get right back up and work some more.


Perfectionism says, “You aren’t good enough because you have to work hard.” Hard work says, “I can do this!” How about you? What do you do to press on? Our monthly newsletter includes a column called Share the Story where we share stories to encourage you to press on. If you would like to receive our newsletter which also includes book releases and contests, click here.

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  1. Ali, this is a subject to ponder upon for sure. I think I've been born a perfectionist (it must be in my genes) — if I can't do something the best I can, I won't even try. But I also notice that this approach is slowly changing. I start realizing that letting it go is often the healthiest way for me. Although, a part of me will always strive for perfection, another part shrugs off, smiles and moves on when I can't be at my best.

    • Something that helps me is seeing the difference between excellence and perfectionism. Perfect suggests "without flaws" while excellence means "doing my best." It might just be mental gymnastics on my part but it helps me work hard and avoid the feelings of paralyzation when i think I can't do something the best.

  2. This has been a lifelong struggle for me. My Mom was always comparing to me to other people's children in the hopes that this would make me competitive and being a shy introverted child it made me lose my confidence. Happily, I married a man who has helped me see that I don't have to be perfect, I just have to put myself out there and try. We passed this on to our children as well.

    I try to plan some writing "craft" time into my day everyday. It's amazing how those small bits make a difference and hopefully they'll also help me be the writer I've always wanted to be. Thank you for this kind and thoughtful post.

    • Praise the Lord for your husband! Many baby steps equal one gigantic leap. You go girl and enjoy your progress. You're children are so fortunate to have you.

  3. I think this is a really interesting topic because when a person excells at something, others sometimes assume there's no effort or struggle involved. Most of the time they haven't seen the twenty times you got knocked down before you sailed home triumphantly. I have a friend who has achieved many successes in his life: professional figure skater, world class flute-maker, grammy winner, the list goes on…he struggled and worked and sweated to make each of those achievements. He made them look easy but they weren't. I know because I saw him behind the scenes, driven to succeed, the endless hours of practice, the absolute concentration required to find just the right note.

    It's like someone finding out you're a writer and then saying: I've always thought about whipping out a novel to make a little extra cash. Uh huh. You go right ahead and do that. It's easy for others to see our success as being the product of simple easy (you're oh-so-talented) steps, when the reality is we work hard, we sacrifice, and we strive for every perfect word/step/note.

    Love this post.

    • You really understand hard work. "Whipping out a novel for a little extra cash…"LOL Thanks for posting. I'm heading right over to your site:)

  4. Perfection is a state of mind. For me it is attaining the goals I have set for myself and maintaining that standard. If I can walk away and feel good about it, then yeah, it's perfect.

  5. Linda Burke says:

    I agree with you and Angela. People don't see the time spent learning and doing. Perfectionism can halt progress in any effort. I had to keep reminding one child that he couldn't play the game, write the report, whatever, without practice. That practicing was what made it look easy to someone else after he'd spent hundreds of hours working on it.

  6. A good lesson to be learned here Ali. Thanks!

  7. Someone in one of the writing workshops I took last year said that perfection is just another form of procrastination. For some reason, her words resonated with me. I know myself. I know those words on a page will never be perfect enough. But I also know that I'm probably the only one freaking out over it.

    Great looking website!



    • I can easily see that. I have a writing friend who has helped me see when perfectionism has arrested my writing. The procrastination for me is fear of being wrong or measured.

  8. My life used to be all about perfectionism. I blame my dad. 😛 No matter what I accomplished, it was never good enough, so I kept trying to be better and better until I was perfect. Trying to be perfect has caused me a lot of grief over the years, but in the last few I've finally been able to break away from it. I'm still a perfectionist in many ways, but it doesn't rule my life with the same iron-tight grip.

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