Striving for Excellence, not Perfection - B. S. H. Garcia

8 Jan 2024

The year is 1998. I just won the award for the best-read student at my elementary school. I’ve emptied the library of its book and inhaled every page. But I receive a 95% on my latest reading comprehension exam.

Somewhere inside, a voice whispers, I’m not enough.

The year is 2001. I’m the only girl performing percussion in my district, and I’ve flown through the bells and onto the snare. I lose the drum solo for our next performance to a boy who’s played since he was two.

I’m not enough.

The year is 2009. I’ve graduated high school with some college courses under my belt, and though I’ve been accepted to several universities, I’m hellbent on pursuing acting. I enter my first ever pageant and walk away with two trophies: one for acting, and one for overall excellence. Neither of them are first place.

I’m not enough.

The year is 2011. I’ve battled eating disorders for two years and am underweight as a result, but I still don’t feel thin enough for Hollywood. I’ve received high praise from acting instructors, landed a few minor commercials, and secured some modeling gigs. I even get an agent, despite having zero film credits to my name. But my breakthrough role hasn’t come. I cave to the fear of rejection.

I’m not enough.

The year is 2022. I’ve queried my debut novel, a work of love begun shortly after graduating from the University of Colorado with honors, for months. I’ve received one hundred rejections and one offer to publish that just didn’t sit right. Despite receiving high praise and reworking my story again and again, I know deep down it doesn’t fit within the firm boundaries of the traditionally published debut market.

I’m not enough.

The year is 2024. My debut to authorship didn’t go as planned, but I released two beautifully flawed stories not six months past. I look at my numbers, see how much time, money, and energy has gone into something for a return people would deem laughable.

Of Thieves and Shadows is the debut novel of B. S. H. Garcia

But this time, I’m proud. I wear my imperfections like armor, holding them up for the world to see. This is me, all my parts, the perfect woven seamlessly into the imperfect, creating a tapestry of memories unique to me. My art, like me, is kintsugi, broken pieces of pottery bound by gold, and made stronger because of it.

Now, a quieter but resilient voice inside me whispers, I am enough.

I’m sorry to begin this post with a montage of my life, but I am a fantasy writer who enjoys a good back story. You knew what you were getting into. Besides, I’ve learned that by sharing the parts of myself I instinctually try to mask in swaths of apathy and pop culture references, I find healing. If I’m lucky, others do as well. We’re all human, and though we come from unique backgrounds, a lot of our underlying fears and pains are the same. Surely, I can’t be the only creative who battles perfectionism, the only person to throw in the towel time and time again just before what might have been a breakthrough. Even as I write this post, I can hear the voices inside my head awakening, prodding, questioning:

What are you doing writing this? You’re no expert on the subject. You’re barely even an author, barely a writer. They’re going to peek behind the curtain and see the Great and Powerful Oz is a façade.

Soon, other imagined voices join the fray. Some entirely concocted, some made from a hodgepodge of critical reviews or feedback I’ve received over the years. Before I know it, I’m drowning in inferiority, my fingertips frozen above my keyboard, my face stoic while my heart races within. I see myself as an exhibit, hear the clack of heels echoing down the museum hall as the tour guide points to me and exclaims,

“Here sits the failed creator, a study in intention crippled by anxiety, a warning of wasted talent and forgotten dreams. She aspired to be a great many things, but the moment she received criticism instead of admiration, she quit. When the roles stopped coming, she abandoned acting. When the guitar solos became too tricky, she stopped playing. When her voice was subpar to that of her friend’s, she stopped singing. And when her book failed to find its home on a bestsellers list, she stopped writing.”

The people whisper and point, then move on, and I become my worst fear of all.


Right now, you’re probably thinking, gods, this lady is really angsty, isn’t she? Like a serious case of Linkin Park syndrome.

Guilty on both accounts. I promise I have something of minor relevancy to offer you, though. The reason I’ve spent precious word space drawing you into my past and my mind, like some horrible remake of A Christmas Carol, is to make sure you understand that I absolutely do not have my shit together, and I probably never will. That’s not what this is about.

Spoiler: I don’t have the answer to overcoming perfection. She’s my shadow, my higher being self, always looking down her nose at me with her perfectly laid hair and her flawless skin, holding out her scroll of achievements that tumbles down the length of her body and unravels onto the floor. It’s as long as the contract Bilbo receives from Thorin and Company, and it’s filled with things I’ve never accomplished and likely never will.

Ah, perfectionism. I can’t get rid of her; I’ve tried for years. But I am learning to live with her.

Sure, she’s a shitty roommate who constantly makes me feel less than. You know what else she is, though? A reason to strive for excellence. A reminder to give myself and others compassion. And a spark of hope. For although my life will never be perfect, and although I no longer believe you can achieve your wildest dreams solely through hard work (another topic for another day), I have tasted sweet moments of perfection. Those rare times where everything seems too good to be true, when you can’t believe the life you’re living in that moment is real, when you realize the imperfections are, in fact, beautiful—that’s real perfection. And if we stop more often to truly live in the moment, we’d recognize just how often these snippets of perfection float by. It’s in the warmth of morning coffee, in the crispness of fall air, and in the passion of getting lost in a good story. I find hope in knowing that, despite my darkest days, those moments of perfection will come again and again as long as I walk this earth.

I suppose posts of this nature typically follow an essay-style format, and here’s where you’d expect the real-life application, followed by a solid conclusion. Too bad, because I’ve written enough of those bland papers in college. You’re going to have to just roll with me on this. Instead, I’d like to drop a few ways I’ve restructured my thinking to lessen perfectionism’s grip on my soul.

From the Ashes is a novella set in Quinaria, SFINCS semifinalist

First (dammit, we just entered essay territory), I’ve embraced the fact that perfectionism is my friend. She doesn’t want me to get hurt, to fail, and by overwhelming me with fear, she prevents those things, in theory. On the flip side, she wants me to strive for excellence, so she’s always pushing me to increase my skills and competence. Once I better understood my perfectionist side’s intentions, I learned how to place boundaries around our relationship. So, she’s allowed to step in when I’m editing, when I’m genuinely seeking feedback, or when I’m motivated to challenge myself. She’s not allowed to talk when I’m drafting, however, nor when I’m feeling down, burned out, or struggling with a myriad of mental health issues. It’s hard, but I’m learning to silence her voice through meditation and by spending more time outside, where I feel centered.

Second, I’m becoming more mindful of when she’s taking over my thoughts. Sometimes perfectionism slips in without us recognizing it. I might be scrolling through social media and suddenly feel overwhelmed with my own insignificance, or reading a book that reduces my writing to juvenile musings in the shadow of another author’s masterful prose. It might disguise itself as feelings of apathy to your craft, a lack of motivation, and the fear of trying something new. These aren’t always signs of crippling perfectionism, but they’ve shown up enough alongside it that I pay those issues extra mind. You can’t address anything you aren’t aware of, so exploring the why and how behind your fear is a huge part of healing.

Third, I’ve begun allowing myself to play out worst-case scenarios followed by best-case ones. When I let my worst fears about my creative pursuits unravel in a grand and fictious fashion, I realize that even were these nightmares to occur, I would keep writing and publishing, anyway. I love the art itself too much to let lack of success get in the way. And when I dare to imagine the positive what ifs, the ways my art could bloom and spread and touch people’s lives, it gives me a nudge to keep going.

If I love the art, the process, and if success is a lottery item, the stakes are suddenly lowered. Yes, I strive to improve every time I lay fingers to the keyboard, but if I can embrace the fact that I’ll never achieve perfection and its ever-changing definition according to the hands of those judging it, I can keep my head down and my heart up.

Your art will never be perfect because you will never be perfect, and you will never be perfect because perfection is an illusion. Strive for excellence and acknowledge that perfectionism will always be your shadow, but realize you owe the world nothing. Create the art you want to the best of your abilities, then ask yourself if it rings true to you. Is this the best version of your vision you can achieve at this moment in your life? If so, trust it, clean it up, and release it into the wild.

Perfectionism can’t rule you when you remember it’s only a fragment of yourself. Create your best, learn from it, and move on. You are more than your successes and failures.

They’re simply footnotes in your story.

If your curiosity was picked by what you've just read, you can get the different books of B. S. H. Garcia using this link.

About B.S.H. Garcia

B. S. H. Garcia

B. S. H. Garcia is the author of the epic fantasy series, The Heart of Quinaria. A household manager by day, writer by night, she graduated with honors from The University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in English Writing. To get into character for her stories, she trudges through the woods in cosplay with a mead-filled drinking horn and has traveled from Oregon to New Zealand seeking inspiration.