It’s Science Fair time. Those of you who are parents are nodding right now–you know my pain. The Science Fair…it’s optional in our county. We live in a highly educated, competitive county, so even though it’s optional, a lot of kids participate. This is a good thing.
Many parents also participate. This isn’t such a good thing. We joke that we can tell which ones had a “little bit of help” from parents. It is always abundantly clear that my children were left to their own devices come Science Fair time (reference accompanying photo above). Science is not my strong suit. In high school, I literally cried daily in physics class, and every other day in chemistry class (calculus and gym were also pretty ugly, but that’s for another time). I know what my strengths are–writing is one, and apparently being easily overwhelmed and emotional is another. Science, not so much.
So I give my children the guidelines, a pair of scissors, paper, glue and markers. GO! Somehow no one gets an impromptu haircut, and two display boards come out at the end. I hope theirs are displayed near the back, and not next to the motorized robot fueled by corn oil freshly pressed from homegrown corn.
I was talking to a friend about this, and she noted that her husband is a Science Fair judge on the state level (State level?? I am so mediocre I had never even HEARD of Science Fair on a state level!). She said he enjoys seeing all the hard work and enthusiasm from the students, and that “It’s always the flawed ones that win.”
She said the judges are no fools, they know which ones are truly made by students, and they reward the kids who tried their best. Perfection is not a goal or indicator for success.
Ain’t that the truth? Science fair projects aside, we live in a world of self-imposed perfectionism. Goal weights, homemade healthy snacks, lofty job titles, tidy homes with the white picket fence. We’re slaves to trying to be perfect in some form or another. We’re supposed to be smart, attractive, organized, well-mannered, athletic, busy volunteers, dedicated employees, good cooks, patient parents.
It’s when we stop trying to be perfect and instead admit our flaws that we can truly live a fulfilled and satisfying life. Isn’t living a happy and full life true success? Comparing our version of perfectionsim and chasing the validation of others because we look neat and tidy and respectable and responsible and overachieving is a losing proposition. It’s smoke and mirrors at best, and elusive at worst. And it’s always exhausting and empty. See, it’s the flawed ones that win in the end.
It’s those of us who are a little messy inside (and inside our homes and cars), a little too loud, a little scatter-brained and unorganized, a little late to appointments, a little soft around our physical edges and rough around our mental edges–those are the interesting ones. Those are people living their lives out loud.
So in both life and at the Science Fair, I tell my kids to do what they’re interested in and to try their best. They’re not scientists but they’re also not idiots–they know their misspelled and crooked display boards are quaint at best. But they can own their work. I hope they present their projects with pride. I hope through their lives, they can own their true selves and their stories, and present themselves with pride. The flawed ones–they win.