The fear of failing rules my life – I long
To cut myself some slack. The need to please
Runs deep as death: to screw it up, be wrong
From time to time, be sloppy, careless, ease
My rigid standards half of one degree
Would liberate my soul; no prison cell
Or torment that the world devised could be
As harsh as my own self-inflicted hell.
Just how bad could it be – would heaven rend
Itself asunder, oceans boil, old men
Tear out their beards, Life As We Know It end
If I were less-than-perfect now and then?
It’s time I learned to stumble, slip and fall.
Accept I’m only human, after all.


Does anyone else beat themselves up over the smallest mistake, see near-success as a total disaster, or focus solely on what isn’t quite right? Or is it just me? N.

(I just described my perfectionist tendencies in a strict metrical form, didn’t I? Good grief, it’s even worse than I thought πŸ™‚ )

16 thoughts on “Perfectionism

  1. Yes give yourself some slack! Just to feel the freedom of the non-perfectionist πŸ™‚ but the poem is a perfect beauty. I always hate my typo’s, I oversee them too easily, and I hate it. That doesn’t qualify as perfectionism I suppose πŸ™‚

  2. Oh gosh Nick,, I winced all the way through this because you just described me!!!! Being in recovery from alcoholism within AA I have worked hard on this one as it seems to be a massive character trait that does us no favours. i am getting a little better at it but… 😊

    A few years ago I did a foundation course with the Open University in The Humanities. I did well enough, but when it came to enrolment for year two, I simply couldn’t do it! What if I failed??!! I could have had a degree by now if Id persevered and its something I have always wanted to achieve.
    Cant be bothered now!! 😊

    Your poem is great as ever, and your comments at the foot of it made me smile 😊 x

    • Ah, so it’s not just me. I guess that’s something! An awful thing, perfectionism, isn’t it? And the irony is, it hasn’t actually made me any more successful – or stopped me making some toe-curling faux pas in all spheres of life! I can absolutely identify with your reaction to the OU course; you wouldn’t believe the number of things I could have tried but didn’t for fear of not being any good (or even good enough). The things that are helping most at the moment are playing with the orchestra and cycling; in both cases, I’m not very good, and know I probably won’t get any better, but somehow I still enjoy them! Now, if I could just give myself a break when it comes to work, parenting, DIY, finance, writing poetry…and so the list goes on! N.xx

  3. All the time–it takes about a month to recover and all.
    Although, since I’m no perfectionist, I tend to beat myself up over mistakes of all sizes. πŸ™‚

    Ayano xxx.

  4. My list goes on too! Anyway youre making progress by “still doing” two of the things and more importantly enjoying them no matter what. That’s progress and youre probably better than you think at all these things. Now I need to read what I have just said and apply it to myself!!! 😊 X

  5. I will admit, Nick, I am not a total perfectionist, except, perhaps, when it comes to writing poetry. What I have found during a long career in education is that everyone, especially those with towering egos, have a little voice inside them that says, I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough. What I’ve believed for decades now is that if you strengthen a strength you weaken a weakness, so concentrate on your strengths. Mistakes are the ore that you smelt that you can turn into bicycles. The poem is wonderful. The pursuit of perfection is okay. Gone for a bike ride yet today? Life is good. That does not mean every moment is good. Sitting day after day by your son’s bedside as cancer wastes him away is not an experience that will ever disappear from your breathing, but I often read your poetry, and that helps me feel the pulse of the universe through craft that is really, really old, that ties me and everyone who reads Nick Moore to the breath of humanity as it always moves into ever modernizing worlds. You are a sonneteer. May the world always welcome sonneteers into the sunshine of its days.

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