On Nora Ephron and Perfectionism

I’m seriously obsessed with Nora Ephron and every single thing that she’s ever written (which is a lot, including You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, etc.) If you haven’t read her stuff, stop what you’re doing immediately and go check some of it out. But yesterday I read a short essay that Nora wrote that really jumped out at me.

It explains how Nora was at a movie screening that had gotten very crowded. She was flustered, and leaned over and said to her friend that someone should start bringing in folded chairs for those who were still standing around. She was so focused on the idea that she was becoming unable to enjoy the screening, when the friend leaned over and said to her, “Nora, we can’t do everything.” This was a real epiphany for her, and it was for me too as I read it.

It’s easy to try to be a “fixer.” You want to do everything perfectly, and you want to help everyone else do everything perfectly too. But this puts a lot of pressure and stress on you, and can make it hard to function. Yes, it’s great to want to do everything to the best of your ability, but you can’t hold yourself to such a ridiculous standard that you’re constantly struggling to live up to your own expectations.

Nora’s essay was a good reminder that you can’t do everything. It’s just not possible, and it’s not fair to try. Focus on doing a few top priority things really well, and accept that sometimes you have to delegate to other people or pass on projects entirely because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s okay. Give yourself a break. Allow for imperfection. More realistic expectations give you time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the things you’re doing well, instead of focusing on what’s slipping through the cracks or what could be done better.



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