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Perfect is a 4 letter word


Last week I assisted a teacher in a class. One of the students, she was five, was trying to copy the teachers example.  She was in tears because her craft  was not exactly the same as the teacher’s example.

“Mine is awful. It doesn’t look like the teachers.”

She asked, “Is this perfect teacher?”

Perfect is a four letter word. [Would you like to tweet that imperfect quote? tweet tweet]

Okay, yes I can count. I know the word perfect has 7 letters. p, e, r,  f,  e,  c,  t,  spells perfect and there are 7 letters. But, really, it is a 4 letter word. One of “those” words.

Perfect : to be without fault or defect, completely correct or accurate.

The student wanted to know her craft was correct, accurate, without fault.

She thought her craft only had value if it imitated the teachers example exactly. She wanted it to be perfect.

Perfect is a four letter word. [ I said it twice to be imperfect and repetitive. tweet tweet.]

Four letter words are bad words; words that should not be spoken in polite company. Four letter words are profane.

The goal of life should never be perfection. Perfection is impossible.

 If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

The little girl’s face has been floating around in my brain since last Thursday. When I wash the dishes and don’t get them all clean before I go to bed, I think, “Is this perfect?” When I work on my writing, I think, “Is this perfect?” When I clean my kitchen floors I think, “Is this perfect?”

And I am the same as the child that sat in front of her muffin papers putting glue on  blue pom pom’s and beaded eyes trying to make a bird, trying to make a life as an adult. A perfect life.

Who do you ask? Who do you want to answer you? Your teacher? Your children? Your boss?

Stop saying the word perfect. Wash your mouth out with soap every time you say; perfect. Stop it.

Ban the word from the dictionary. Cut it up into little pieces. Throw perfect away and live imperfectly. Glue your blue pom poms any way you want to. Leave a few dishes in the sink and read a book.

And to the little girl crying because her craft wasn’t the same as the teachers: I pray you will grow up to create your own birds. And when you look at what you made you will say, “This is good. This is mine. This is me.”

This idea of perfect makes me not want to publish this post. Keep it hidden until it is perfect. The word that doesn’t exist.

What do you think? Is perfect a 4 letter word?

Please tell me in the comments. And, please only leave comments that are imperfect.

perfect is a 4 letter word


About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • EL

    So your saying that my name is profanic because it has 4 letters?

    • Hello El,
      I see I should have said, “Some.” “Some four letter words are profane.

  • Holly Mueller

    So, so true! I love that the older I get, the more and more I leave the concept of “perfect” behind. Perfectionism can drive you crazy and cause you to miss all the important things in life. It can cripple creativity and cause yourself and others harm. We definitely need to teach our children and students that “perfect” is a 4-letter word!

  • Valorie MacDonald

    I just LOVE this!!! And, well, I’m headed out the door but do SO want to share how I’ve been watching my 12 year old begin to learn the truth of this! BUT I left a comment over on another post, about what I think life is like… And I’m QUITE sure it was imperfect enough for several comments!))

    • Hello Valorie,
      Thank you. I LOVE your capital letters. It is like you are talking right in the room with me.
      Are you learning along with your 12 year old? I think my kids learn more by what I do then by what I say.
      Thank you for commenting and telling me what life is like.

      • Valorie MacDonald

        Oh yes! This is my hope: to learn to dream and fully find my own unique WHOness, even as I encourage my children to do the same. Feels like I’m coming a bit late to the party, since my oldest are turning 20 and sadly I never knew they had to be taught to dream (or rather to not stop dreaming!) because I didn’t even understand that for myself! Now I’m determined we will all learn together, however imperfectly! Oh, and SO MUCH YES on them learning from our lives more than from our words!
        ps Thanks for LOVING my caps… I actually included it in my abouts on my blog because I just can’t express myself being me without them; eventually I’ll transfer to a format in which I can use more variation of font, color, etc. BUT either way I will always use my CAPS and…ellipses. Sometimes I wish I could just scrawl into my journal and it would appear magically on my computer screen. When I write with pens, highlighters, ect. it feels as though I’m pouring my very soul out onto the page.

  • Janelle

    I love you, Pamela Hodges! You continually give me permission to be myself, imperfect me!

    • Yes, Janelle, you have my permission. But, you don’t really need it. The only person who can give you permission is yourself.
      I spent four months seeing a therapist to realize I needed to believe in myself more than I needed her to believe in me.

  • Elsie

    My husband is a perfectionist, so perhaps I go the other way to counterbalance him. I strive to do my best, and that is not always perfect. I can live with that.

    • Hello Elsie,
      I like your attitude, striving to do your best. I will do the same, and be happy with it too. Working hard, living imperfectly.

  • jane williams

    Being a recovering perfectionist, this makes my heart twinge with that knowing ache. Such a hideous disease of heart. Thanks for your perfectly imperfect voice in the wilderness… here’s mine: http://inplainjaneview.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/the-perfect-gift/

    • Good Morning Jane,
      Thank you for sharing your story. My middle name was suppose to be jane, but my father won, and my middle name is my mother’s first name.

  • La McCoy

    You captured it. This is great!
    I don’t get the dishes clean either. But I work on it again later.

    • Hello Laura. Thank you. How many dishes are in your sink?

      • La McCoy

        Hi Pamela, Edel says Hi to Pooh and Maggie.
        When I read this I had my cleaned coffee cup draining in sink. I got up and put it away. Then i vacuumed up all of edels nails. Today I did work on the kitchen floor as you inspired. But it is far from clean. I am just too exhausted to do more now.
        When I went to bed last night I had my dinner cup soaking in the sink. When hubby came home last night he put his fruit cup soaking in the sink. Before he left for work he washed his breakfast dishes and the 2 sink dishes. I must give him a big thank you when he comes home. Seeing clean dishes when i got to the kitchen made me smile.
        I am in a different situation than many. I do not have many here. I strive to wash the dishes as they get dirty. I fix dinner. then wash the fixings. Then wash the dinner plates. then wash the fruit cup. I rarely wash more than a couple dishes at a time. I keep supplies set up to wash only a few dishes at a time.
        Dirty dishes make me unhappy. So i clean them. I do not like to clean them but when they are clean then i am happy.

  • I struggled with this for years. Maybe there are still a few traces of it around. My family could vouch for that. Here is an article I wrote on the subject. Great post, Pamela.


  • Pamela, I quickly escaped from NaNoLand this morning. Perfect is a 4 letter word – I banished it from my head otherwise I would not be able to complete the challenge. Thank you as always for great posts. The NaNoPolice is looking for me. Got to run. Bye Bye

    • Partricia,
      Thank you for stopping by in the middle of your writing adventure. Perhaps we could make “perfect” walk the plank.

  • Dana Murphy

    This is my demise. (not sure if I used that word correctly, but I’m really trying to not focus on perfection here). I always want to be perfect. As a teacher, as a mom, as a writer. Perfect is the source of my gray hairs. (Which I color because I want to be perfect.) I will always now remember your words. Always. Perfect is my new four letter word. Thank you.

    • La McCoy


    • Good Morning Dana,
      Thank you for your honesty. May you have joy today living imperfectly perfect.

    • Valorie MacDonald

      Dana my heart went out to you special! May you see yourself as fully, wholly, perfectly you… IN the imperfections; whether you color or you don’t;) So far I’m not coloring, and don’t wear makeup but a couple days a week. Sometimes I still look in the mirror and think of how others’ expectations may cause them to make judgments on me as a result of these choices. So I lean in and smile and tell myself about the fingerprints of God all over me, just like I used to sing to my kiddoes when they were tiny. And if I WANT to wear makeup I do; but only if I feel like it. The minute I start feeling myself comparing to others I just toss the makeup in the back of the drawer for a couple weeks. Annnyway, that’s just my personal perspective; no intention of ranting here. I just wanted to take a moment to encourage you in the pursuit of alllll your YOUness! GO DANA, GO!)