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Rethinking Perfection: A Journey Beyond White Supremacy Culture

Updated: Jan 10

By Nora F. Murphy Johnson, PhD

Tema Okun's provocative insights on white supremacy culture were (and continue to be, many years later) a revelation to me. Especially, his analysis of perfectionism. Okun illustrates how this culture idolizes perfectionism, defining what it means to be a 'good professional.' This is a professional who is not only striving for excellence but is also perfectionistic, individualistic, unwavering in their methods, and resistant to criticism. Central to this mindset is the idea that making a mistake equates to being a mistake.

This concept struck a profound chord with me. Reflecting on my life, I see the pervasive shadow of this perfectionism. The countless hours spent agonizing over a grade less than an 'A', the missed opportunities due to fear of not being 'good enough', and the moments I chose to hide rather than risk people seeing my imperfections. I use the word "shadow" intentionally here. This shadow represents more than just fear or disappointment; it symbolizes how such perfectionism dims and diminishes our inner light. For me, it lead me to doubt my inherent value and worth, making it impossible for me to know, appreciate, and realize my true potential.

In light of this realization, I am making a commitment – to myself and you, my readers:

  • Embracing Good Enough: I will share my thoughts and ideas when they are well-formed, not necessarily when they are flawless. Perfection is an illusion and an unattainable goal.

  • Accepting Imperfection: My work will never be perfect – and that's okay. Imperfection is a part of being human, and it's time to embrace it. I won't expect you or your work to be perfect either!

  • Collaborative Growth: Your input is invaluable. The more we engage in discussions and share perspectives, the richer and more impactful our collective understanding will become. Watch for my upcoming post on the Tree of Alignment framework to see this power in action.

  • Continuous Evolution: I will update and share my work when significant developments or shifts in understanding occur. Progress, not perfection, will be the guiding principle.

Through these commitments, I aim to step away from the shackles of perfectionism and move towards a more inclusive, realistic, and humane approach. This journey is not just about personal growth but also about challenging and changing the oppressive norms embedded in our culture. Norms that are intended to hold us separate from each other, to dim our lights, and to keep us from realizing what is possible.

I invite you to join me on this journey. Together, let's redefine what it means to be 'good enough' and embrace the beauty of our collective imperfections. As we do, we not only liberate ourselves from unrealistic standards but also ignite the inner light that perfectionism has long overshadowed.

xo, nora

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