Be professional, not perfect

Kelly Smith

I’ve written about perfectionism in the past, how we shouldn’t set the bar so high for ourselves that we basically set ourselves up for failure. For someone who always worries too much about how they will perform, this is a common problem, but I there’s another part of perfectionism I feel needs to be addressed: how we appear to others.

Think about it: If someone is always concerned over what others think about them, chances are they’re going to be constantly doing what they can to appear as professional as possible to others. Now there’s obviously nothing wrong with looking professional. In fact, showing others that you are experienced and confident in what you’re doing is how you build their confidence that you can get the job done well and efficiently. But do you need to look perfect?

Think back to when you were a young child learning the world. How did view your parents? I remember thinking my parents were experts when I was growing up. Sure, they made a few mistakes here and there, but overall, they always knew what they were doing. They went to work, they took care of me and my sister, they made sure we were looked after when they were away, they were on top of everything.

And then, after many years, the adult world began coming into view. After I started attending college, got a summer job, and had to start paying some expenses of my own, it became clear to me how inexperienced I’d been all my life. The real world can be rough sometimes, so it’s only natural that imperfect people allow things like stress, frustration, and impatience to get the better of them sometimes. No one can avoid it, so the only thing to do is learn how to deal with and overcome it.

What really brought this to my attention was my major. I’m an education major looking to go into teaching after I graduate, which means my last few semesters involve student teaching and other field experiences, some of which I’ve already done through observations and other class projects. When it comes to actually leading a classroom of young students in some sort of activity, even for only 10 minutes, it can still be quite the nerve-wracking experience, especially the first time.

What I’ve learned from these experiences is that even though I’m certainly not perfect and might not even be that confident, the students still appreciate my efforts, laugh at my small jokes, and enjoy our time together. It’s very encouraging to know that I’m still making a difference in their day even if I’m not yet an expert at what I plan to do with my life.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care at all about how we come across to someone else, because ignorance really isn’t bliss in the end. Just remember that how you view yourself and how others view you aren’t always the same, so don’t let a fear of not being perfect stop you from doing what you need to do, because you don’t need to be perfect to get the job done.