A Story to Help: Perfectionism

I wanted to share with everyone a story by the world famous, Ajahn Brahm. It has helped significantly because it changed my perception of many of the thoughts I have on a daily basis. I, like many grad students, suffer from perfectionism. This has caused me to not finish projects on time, get rejected from things, and has caused more anxiety in my life than pretty much anything else. I do still strive for the best quality but sometimes I just say it’s good and move on.

So monks tend to build their own monasteries because it is super expensive to get a contractor, and monks don’t have money. Anyway, a Buddhist monk was laying brick to build a wall. He had to learn how to lay brick since it’s really not as easy as the YouTube videos make it seem. After a very long time, the monk was finished. He stepped back to admire his work when he noticed two bricks that were a little out of place. He was furious, enough to go to the abbot and ask for him to knock down the wall so he could rebuild it. That was not going to happen, he had to live with the bricks. Every day the monk walked by that wall, and every day he suffered from having to look at those bricks. The monk didn’t even want people to look at it since he was so ashamed. Until one day, a man was visiting the monastery and was looking at the wall. The monk approached the man who was just entranced by the wall. The man told the monk how beautiful the wall was and how much he admired it. The monk was confused and told the man it wasn’t perfect and there were two very bad bricks. The man looked back at the monk as said “Yes, there are two bad bricks, but I see the 998 good bricks too”.

Sometimes we get so caught up in seeing the “imperfections” in life that we forget that there is so much perfection around as well. This story really made me think about how I get so much anxiety from things I don’t think are perfect that I forget that I do so many good things alongside those not-so-perfect tasks or items. Making mistakes is life and you are human. Plus, those imperfections are not imperfections at all. They are “features” and those features are what make us individuals and beautiful. The next time you doubt yourself or put yourself down for not being “good enough”, look for the 998 good features that you have. I guarantee that you will have a less anxious time and definitely more happiness in your life.

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