Community Builders Must Let Go of Perfect
Over the last three weeks, I've begun working on three large community-building projects while also going through a personal grief process. In times like this, I try to give myself the space to feel the feelings first. Not everything gets done. I have to take a lot of breaks. I even came down with a cold. I can communicate proactively about setbacks the best I can, but it's not "perfect."
Then I think... Perfect. What an irrelevant word for the kind of work we do.
Community building demands imperfect work.
What an irrelevant word, in fact, in any world where equality and justice matter.
I've learned through a brilliant coach - hello, Tanya Geisler! - that the drive toward perfection in any daily work is a symptom of the Impostor Complex. The Impostor Complex is that thing we hear referred to as "impostor syndrome" all the time (except it's not a syndrome because it's not a permanent state of being, but rather an idea we can play with): we feel we may be found out at any moment for the frauds we are, that we don't deserve our victories. The Impostor Complex is also a symptom of a wounded, individualistic society and especially patriarchy, but that's a topic for another newsletter.
The truth is that building community requires that you simultaneously (1) are confident in your purpose, and (2) are confident in the fact that you can't do that purpose alone. You would be an impostor if you took most of the credit for the outcomes of your community work. Checking yourself is healthy.
Further, I hope that you know that when you follow guides like this one on Commitment Curves, or this one on Mission Statement creation that I've created, the process of doing the work out in the world never looks so clean and organized as when we write it out to train others. I have a lot of trouble writing how-to guides for this very reason. I find them helpful but only to a point. The process is messy. It's not linear. It requires you to throw out the guide eventually and be brave.
So sometimes when I'm in the middle of helping to organize a community or project, I'm also grieving. You are human, and so I know you have done the same. Remember that your work requires you to be imperfect, but also to be full of compassion toward that imperfection. May your work building community free you from the pressure of perfection, every day, a little at a time.