Warts and all

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1. Learning

The better you get the worse you get. The more I learn the more I learn that I don’t know much.

This can be overwhelming at times. I think it’s pretty normal to feel this way. But I also see it can easily become a limiting type of negative feedback.

Looking back at old projects, old essays, old anything, I see flaws. I was so naive. Simultaneously, I feel like I see how my output has gotten better.

But realizing this negative feedback loop — as in keeping with the theme — just makes you even more insecure! Because, if this model is true (and it generally seems to be), then this post I’m writing right now will seem so bad to me in a year… not to imagine 10 years!

Knowing this, it’s easy to fall into perfectionism. There’s always something to improve after all. But this is dangerous. Because, while it might be the case that in 10 years, I can easily see all the flaws, right now I can’t. And it seems to be my experience that no matter how much I correct, no matter how much time I spend trying to make something perfect, I only realize what was actually missing much later.

Worst, things don’t even make it out the door. Perfectionism can kill projects. When that happens, I don’t realize the flaws. The projects I never finished because I didn’t know how to explain it the right way or didn’t know just how to say what I wanted to say perfectly, those I still don’t know how to improve.

Granted, they might just still be out of my reach, and thus simply never get finished because of this, but I feel everything I do is out of my reach, even when doing it. And then it’s done, and I hate it a little. And then a year goes by, and I hate it a lot.

I have to finish things to improve. Incomplete things are in a constant state of improvement. They’re too maleable to be at fault1. They’re beyond critique because they’re meerly in progress, they’re not solid enough to grasp and criticise.

Ideally, I shouldn’t get discouraged by feeling stupid. In fact, I’m starting to feel stupid, and I’m kinda glad about that, because I know how much I had to learn to be this dumb. But I dislike everyone’s complex with wanting to be the wisest of all the G(r)eeks by pretending that they don’t know anything.

Knowing that you know nothing is a paradox, and a platitude.

He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.

– Lao Tsu

This is a dumb quote. It should really be:

Those who speaks, does not know. Those who knows, does not speak, and plateaus.

You can’t know things, you can only know them more. So knowing, isn’t a destination, but a process. But it’s a painful one.

2. Self Redaction

I feel like contemporary culture expects a self redaction from the individual of their history. You’re not supposed to fail in public. In a spectacle, there are just dunkers and those that are dunked on. Being wrong is death of your socially distributed ego.

What this false internet reality leaves out is the numerous failures that lie at the end of everything even remotely sort of cool. Without this ever in the public eye, the culture perpetuates and intensifies perfectionism in us all.

I think that to some extend, this isn’t just a moral issue, but also an individual one. The idea of being unable to fail in public means you can’t grow in public either.

This I find limiting.

Further, for those around us, the network effects of being imperfect seem to be worthwhile. In fact, I’d argue that in a time of flawless, but false public personas, being not just a finished product but a evolving history is a much more potent and intersting identity to embody. And it’s one that anyone with any sense should find preferable to the superficially flawles.

I feel like I’ve already made numerous public mistakes, and I don’t see that slowing down, and maybe I shouldn’t want that, each one is a sign of me going in the right direction.

I don’t know how to end this.

Footnotes:

1

Reference implementations and their consequences have been a disaster for the human race.

Author: Christina Sørensen

Created: 2023-10-12 Thu 05:16