It doesn’t have to be perfect to bless other people.

(a funny sidenote…I started this post back in December, but it’s sat in my my drafts folder, waiting. For what? For me to find the time to, um, perfect it. Ahem. It occurred to me the other day that this was sort of silly, given the topic of the post, so I decided to go ahead and publish it before I had time to perfect it. Because maybe it’ll bless someone anyways!)

Ahh, perfectionism. It almost sounds like a virtue, doesn’t it? In reality, it is such a snare in so many ways, not the least of which is its tendency to render us immobile. I’ve touched on this before in a post inspired by a looming pile of laundry, but it’s something I’ve been pondering again lately.

This train of thought was brought on by one of those oh-so-common moments I have when I look at other photographers’ work. I have learned a lot about photography in the last few years, and I am still learning, learning, learning. Still, most of the time when I look at work that is more professional than mine, I wonder what in the world I’m even doing taking pictures for other people, and I feel entirely inadequate for the task.

The same thing happens to me sometimes when I read blogs written by people who are smarter, funnier, and more skilled than I am. Or when I browse through a scrapbooking magazine full of beautiful layouts that make mine pale by comparison. Or when I visit a home that is perpetually clean and organized. Or when I see a mom who is more patient than I am. Or when I hear of a homeschooling family who is always doing really fun, creative, educational things. Or when I see a mom who is most certainly more beautiful/in shape/stylish than I am. Or when I hear a highly skilled pianist that can play circles around me.

You get the idea. In a world so full of people with varied skills, there is someone who outshines me in every single area of my life.

This is good for my growth in humility, to be sure, but it can also make me feel discouraged, and can even make me feel like giving up. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, either…maybe you don’t feel blue about your photography, but you maybe feel discouraged because someone else spends less than you, or has more in savings, or produces less trash, or cooks from scratch more, or hangs even their socks to dry on the line.

So, how do I keep from giving up? When I’m overcome by the “I’m not good enough at this and why am I even bothering!” blues, here’s what I remind myself of:

It doesn’t have to be perfect to bless other people.

It’s so easy to give up if we can’t do something perfectly, but odds are, we’ll manage to bless more people by doing something imperfectly than by doing nothing at all.

My scrapbooks will never be published in a magazine, but they do bring joy to my children as they page through the books, looking at younger versions of themselves, and remembering fun and happy times.

I’ll never play in a concert hall, but my piano playing serves the people at my church, and many of them have been kind enough to tell me that my playing, (imperfect though it is) has blessed them.

I’ll probably never be as good at photography as the professionals, but my imperfect images have still made a lot of people happy.

I am not as good at feeding my family cheaply as Money Saving Mom is, but I do save a lot more than I would if I didn’t try at all.

My blog will probably never be as popular or as good as some of the really big blogs out there, but through it, I’ve been able to inspire a lot of people to save their money.

It’s tempting to let perfectionism freeze us into inaction, but most of the time, an imperfect effort is better than no effort at all.

My church wouldn’t be better off if I refused to play because I’m not perfect at at it, my family wouldn’t be better off if I refused to cook because I’m not an amazing chef, my children wouldn’t be better off of I gave up on homeschooling because I’m not the most creative teacher ever, and my friends and family wouldn’t be better off if I put down my camera because I’m not as good as other photographers.

So, the next time you feel like quitting at something simply because you can’t do it perfectly, or because someone else does it better, remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect to bless other people. Go do what you can do…give it your all, and odds are, your efforts will bless someone.

(p.s. I should add that I am not defending laziness or sloppy work. I do think it’s important to always be striving to learn and improve. I keep trying to learn to be a better mom, teacher, scrapbooker, photographer, pianist, blogger, and so on…what I am saying is that it’s important not to just give up on something until you can do it perfectly, because your imperfect efforts can bless people!)

(p.p.s The Nester uses a similar phrase (It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Beautiful) which she borrowed from another blogger (Life Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Beautiful), so I don’t think she’ll mind that this post title is like her phrase!)

(p.p.p.s If, despite efforts to the contrary, my blog is making you feel discouraged and overwhelmed, please do read my “You don’t have to make yogurt” post.)


  1. says

    I worry that when I make things for Christmas gifts that people don’t appreciate them because they are handmade and not store bought. I need to get over that. ;)

  2. CC says

    I just commented on your compost post(that sound funny to me). I don’t compost like you are suppose to. But all that stuff breaks down anyway, with little help from me. The older I get the more I find sometimes there is a good enough. The biggest problem I have is letting other people do something because it not the way I would do it. So now I work on letting my husband do whatever without comments from me. Makes for a happier day when you don’t fight over silly stuff that really doesn’t matter. Same with kids, it was hard but teaching and letting my son do it his way taught me more than him.

    Kristen I read your blog almost every day. I followed you over from zero waste a long time ago. I try out a blog here and there but don’t stick with most of them. Yours is one I’ve come to enjoy, its pleasant and interesting you do it just right.

  3. says

    A while back, Grace Jones had a fantastic song which has become my mantra. it’s entitled: “I’m not perfect. But I’m perfect for you”. I sing it to my hubby, kids, friends etc. every so often because it’s a very true song. Puts a lot of things in perspective.

    You may not be perfect, Frugal Gal, but you’re perfect for me.

    You have an excellent blog. Good work. Keep it up!

  4. says

    I love this post! You seriously intimidate me like no other, seeming to have it so together and be such a great wife and mother! I had wanted to invite you to coffee once we moved here, and then I thought, oh my goodness, what am I thinking? But you are so right, perfectionism is overrated. I’ve found that people have told me my most helpful times are ones when I let my guard down and admit I’m sometimes a big mess. I think I was raised by a perfectionist, and tend to think I have to be great at everything rather than striving to be good at what is necessary and what I love. Okay, I rambled, don’t even know if it makes sense, but am taking a cue from you and leaving it as is.

  5. says

    Excellent post! All one can do is do the best one can. If someone else is better at taking pictures for example, then so be it. I’ll bet someone else is better at something that the photographer does other than pictures, if you understand what I am trying to say. That’s just the way off life…. Like rock, paper, scissors.

  6. says

    What a great and timely post. I definitely feel this way sometimes–who doesn’t? It’s so easy to get caught up in, “Oh, I’ll never save as much as this person, I’ll never be as creative/funny/what-have-you as this person, therefore I shouldn’t try.” But I know I’m doing the best I can, and that’s enough.

  7. WilliamB says

    If one had to the best to do something, there would be only one person doing that that in the world. One pianist. One cook. One teacher. Who would the rest of us listen to? Where would our food come from? How would we learn? That’s not the world I want to live in.

    (Even if my fixing skills are pathetic. If I don’t keep trying they’ll never get good.)

  8. Lori says

    Beautiful post, Kristen!

    And, very appropriate for me right now. I’ve been knitting a bunch of wool diaper covers the last few months, and have been wanting to knit one for a friend of mine who cloth diapers but doesn’t knit. But, I keep looking at the ones I’m making for my baby, and thinking, “Hmm, the grafting is still a little funny/the bind-off is a bit bunchy/etc.” I’ve been waiting until I knit the perfect soaker, then I’ll make one for her. Unfortunately, if that time ever comes, I’m pretty sure her youngest will already be potty-trained.

    I need to remember that the point isn’t to knit her a soaker so that she’ll be impressed with what an amazing knitter I am, but so that she can use it. And, I know she’ll appreciate it no matter how imperfect the knitting is. Thanks for the reminder that the soaker will bless her even if the bind-off doesn’t look knitting-magazine-worthy!

    • Molly says

      When I knit or crochet gifts for people, I remind myself that the mistakes let them know it really is handmade. And then I remember the Amish, who purposely put “mistakes” in their quilts, because only God makes perfect things.

  9. says

    Such an excellent point. It took me most of my college years to realize that I could follow things that are “unrealistic” or “very competitive” if it was what made me happy. I think people forget that there are varying degrees of success and not just mind-blowing stardom or sleeping-in-the-gutter failure.

    This post, though not perfected, is definitely a blessing.

  10. says

    You are so right. You don’t have to be the best at everything you do to be great. Did you know that Micaheal Jordan was #1 in only one category in NBA history? He was #2 or #3 or #4 in a lot of categories, but #1 in only one – and that was in Missed Shots!

    Perfectionism is actually a pet peeve of mine – thanks to my husband. He’s a self proclaimed perfectionist who spends (or wastes in my opinion) many hours on his work. Sometimes he brings work home and spends many nights awake on one project. By trying to perfect one thing, he’s only losing time and energy for other things. Now I try reverse psychology and tell him that a perfectionist is someone who can’t get it right the first time. Yes I can get cruel sometimes!

  11. says

    Thanks Kristen, for your blog, and this post.
    I think you’re right…we (and our blogs) don’t have to be perfect…and perfect is subjective anyways, what’s right or perfect for me just might not fit someone else. And that should be fine.
    Please keep sharing your stuff. You inspired me to bake Challah and make yogurt even though our lives and situations are totally different. And even if I don’t do everything you do, it is still interesting to see your path, and the information you provide is empowering!

    • Kristen says

      Oh yes, I plan to keep on blogging (imperfectly!)….no worries. As long as what I write helps and blesses other people, I’ll be here. :)

  12. Michelle says

    Thank you. Can you re-post this every 6 months or a year?

    I think part of the problem is all those magazines where the houses (and meals) have professional stylists work their magic before the photographer comes, and the people are all air-brushed. And then it’s presented as reality. And maybe that’s why Reality TV is so popular–it’s refreshing to see imperfect people, because we can identify with them.

    I used to work really hard to make sure my house was perfectly clean before people came over. Then an acquaintance dropped by unexpectedly to find a big pile of laundry on the couch, kids’ toys wall-to-wall, and dishes stacked on the counter. She laughed in delight (not in ridicule) and said, “Michelle, you ARE human after all!” Our friendship really took off after that. Nobody can relate to–or have a relationship with–perfection.

  13. says

    From one perfectionist to another, perfectionism truly can be a snare. I’m so glad you brought this up! I only know you through your blog, but you inspire me with every post. Keep up the great work.

  14. Laurie says

    reflective, profound, – dare I say perfect. I could say so much to this post, but I’m gonna focus on one word. UNIQUE.

    Most of my days I strive not to be perfect but unique. “I am who I am.” As individuals, I find it much more interesting, satisfying, and realistic if we own who we are – imperfections and all. I’ve also found that this perspective blesses me with a positive attitude, calmness and contentment.

    As far as your blog, it’s the only one I seem to hang onto. Though I’ve looked at others, I return here daily. I see it as honest, realistic, do-able, and unique.

  15. HeatherS says

    I think many of us needed to hear this today (and maybe everyday!). I’ve been reading here for about two months I think and this yours is the first blog I check in the morning and the one I consistently return to. You have a very graceful and gentle way of presenting things that I really appreciate.

    I have personally given up scrapbooking. I realized one day that it totally stressed me out and I really did not enjoy it. I sold all my supplies in a yard sale and have bought good old fashioned photo albums to put pictures in or just do online scrapbooks at Snapfish. I felt very relieved when I let it go!

  16. Annette says

    Thank you. I love your posts like this where you share your humanness. And, oh my gosh, perfectionism completely takes the joy out of life – doesn’t it?! I have perfectionist tendencies… though you wouldn’t know it by looking at my house and it’s daily mess. But you would see it by noticing that my house is still half-painted …because I want it all perfect and I can’t quite decide on what to do about x, y, or z. I think in our society where advertising constantly bombards us with perfect images – it is a battle we must constantly address – in order to learn to “let go.” A friend told me there is a chinese belief that there must be one thing “wrong” in every room – one thing not quite right…whether for good luck or comfort I am not sure – but I love it! Beauty in life comes from embracing life – which is so hard to do when we are striving for perfection.

  17. says

    When I was attending a small Bible School in New Zealand we had a lecturer who was speaking out of Nehemiah say this, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” I happen to think your blog is lovely (your sincerity shines through every post) and this might be one of my favorite posts ever, but the point of that quote was basically that we shouldn’t only let people who are perfect at something be involved (I think he was speaking in the context of church at the time.) So if someone loves to play guitar, but they’re not so great, who cares? It’s not a parade of perfection. I think you captured that here beautifully.

    I was watching a crazy movie called “Sydney White” once. It’s a terribly done Amanda Bynes movie, but it had this one nerdy guy who wrote a blog called “The People’s Punisher”. Anyway, at one point he says “The People’s Punisher is not about being read, it’s about being written.” I’ve adopted “it’s not about being read, it’s about being written” as the tagline for my blog. It helps me to remember that I write because I love it, not to please other people.

    All this to say, Amen sister.

  18. Jonathan says

    It is amazing how reframing something can make huge changes. You could look at others who do something better than you and take it personally. Or you can see if what they do could help you, and make your life better. If so, then great, you just improved. If not, then that is OK because it doesn’t work for you. And that is great too.

    Keep up the good work. There are obviously plenty of people who like and appreciate your blog!

  19. says

    Oh, yes. I am compiling my CV so that I can find another parish (I’m an Anglican priest btw) and I am so discouraged with it. It’s very thin on the continuing ed/committees served front. But there is a good reason for that – I work really hard in my parish rather than looking for opportunities to get out of my parish. When I bemoaned this, friends said, “Just say so, that’s what you do.” Well, I may not be the most competitive, ambitious clergy on the street, and that’s a good thing. I may not be chosen for my dream parish, but wherever the Lord plants me next go-round, it will be the right place. There is only one Good Shepherd. The rest of us are still in training.

  20. says

    Wonderful post! I am my own worst enemy when it comes to some things. I love to cook for my family, but I am always saying things like “this was over cooked a little bit” “there’s not enough of this, or that, in this” “it’s not much but it’s dinner”…blah, blah, blah. I get back “but you made it and you took the time to make it for us, and we love it”.

    I often bemoan what I write on my blog too…but then I realized, I am writing it for me…if it helps one person, or makes another person happy along the way, then that’s a bonus, isn’t it?

  21. jen b says

    I love your blog, because you are soooo real. I know I’ve told you before, but your blog inspires me, but not in a “I want to be just like her because she’s perfect” way, but because you do things that make a difference, however small, and that is inspiring. This post made me cry because I am not a person who compares myself to other (usually) but I have a three year old angel who has an autism spectrum disorder and I get so frustrated with myself becuase I just always feel so , well, not good enough. I feel so overwhelmed with all the information and what we “should” be doing. Your post touched me because it reminded me that it’s not what I cannot do or what we cannot afford to do, or how I’m not patient enough or how there are just not enough hours in the day, but the fact that I am her mommy that is what is really important. I’m who she comes to for hugs and kisses, to fix things that are torn or broken, to help her when she is frustrated. I understand her communication better than anyone else right now, and even though I do not always understand, she is trying to communicate with me and listens when I try to communicate with her. She thinks I’m fun, and funny, and likes it when I sing and read to her. I’ll always be Mommy, and no one else does it like me.

  22. says

    This post and all of the comments are amazing. I used to tutor a little girl whose mom always said, as she was leaving, “be a blessing”. I didn’t understand that for the longest time, and reading your post and how doing what you do, every day, blesses people is helping me understand it even better. I’m having a hard time right now; I’ve just graduated from graduate school but am unemployed and have just moved back in with my parents. I feel like a burden because they aren’t asking me to pay rent, just to focus on finding a job. I’ve taken over the cooking to give my mom so relief, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like enough. This post and everyones’ comments have made me feel better though. Hopefully, I am blessing them by helping out and I know they are blessing to me. Thanks, Kristen, for blessing me with this wonderful post.

  23. Franci says

    “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly, until you can do it well” is a much better saying in my mind than “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well” because so often it’s the practice that makes perfect. :-)

  24. says

    This is wonderful. In the last year, i have learned so much from you and other bloggers. There are times when I think, why try to catch up, then I realize, I am working on things in my own way in my own time. Then I feel better. I finally sent a used gift which sat in my closet because I felt it wasn’t perfect enough. turns out, my cousin LOVED it and gushed about it once she got it. I wondered why I didn’t send it sooner! I am going to remember this sentiment.

  25. says

    Love this post. Very inspirational for me at the moment as I start to create my own blogsite and get disappointed when nobody leaves a c omment. My family love that I am keeping a record of our lives and that’s all that matters.

  26. Julie Leicester says

    Thank you so much for this post. Your comments about not having to be perfect to bless someone else is a blessing to me.

  27. says

    Love this blog and your post. I am a brand newbie and glad to be here
    Just kicked off my own blog in Mar 09 on Christ-centered parenting (different topic) but have the same feelings you do. I love the blog and am blessed to have it in so many ways… But the blogging world can be such a double-edged sword if we let it. We have to be so watchful and disciplined not to fall into the traps of comparison, envy, or perfectionism.
    Thanks for a great post and for all you do here.

  28. says

    Thanks for this, I recently got a little discouraged when I realized all that I don’t do frugally, then my hubby reminded me that I didn’t have to do everything that you or people that I’ve read that link to your blog do. I accomplished my goal of lowering our grocery bill & thats what is so great. Love him!… and your blog. :-)

  29. Lindsay says

    Hello Frugal Girl,
    I just StumbledUpon your blog the other day so right away I signed up to have your posts delivered to my inbox. Today’s post linked me to this one and… here I am. This post was meant for a time such as this in my life. I struggle with the “perfectionism” too! Thank you for you encouragement!

    Lindsay, From NB

  30. Debbie says

    This morning I was reading by Angela Coffman. Her post on August 7, 2010 was titled “Your Best is Good Enough” and she wrote , ” In the darkness I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “Your best is enough and I will make up the difference. “

  31. Frances says

    You and Mr.FG are perfection and you should trademark Frugal Girl. com. I can see a published perfect cookbook of your photos and recipes with your trademark humor! I can see lots of products with your trademark!!! Think about it!

  32. says

    Kirsten, I know this is an old post of yours but I think it is still a goodie and when I started blogging – actually, while I was still setting up my blog – I had a draft box full of posts that I didn’t want to publish. I just could never get them perfect enough!

    That’s when I realized how right you were and how silly of me to settle for nothing but perfection when even my favorite blogs have occasional typos. Just wanted to let you know, this post of yours continues to inspire, and I referenced your title in my goals for the year ^.^

  33. cindy says

    I love your posts! This one hit home for me. I love baking for people, but sometimes I’m thinking it’s not good enough to share. Of course my family loves it. Like you said, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
    It’s funny we think we are the only people who feel this way, it’s so nice to know we aren’t. Others have these same feelings. Thanks so much for sharing, and giving me food for thought! :D

  34. Luann Smith says

    This post really hit home for me too. Just yesterday I wrote about this topic in my journal. This is a quote I always try to remember —-I read it in The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin…”don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. When I find myself struggling with perfectionism I try to remember that it does not have to be perfect to be good !!! Thanks so much…..I love your blog and think you are amazing !!

  35. jin says

    Wow! Great post and just what we needed to hear around here. Love your blog–I check in regularly and there always seems to be a timely message. Keep up the great work! Your work, perfectly imperfect as it is, does indeed bless other people.


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