Everyone is always talking about how perfectionism is a bad thing. Well... yeah. We're all smart people who know that perfection is an illusion, but nevertheless, here we all are, claiming ourselves as perfectionists, letting the desire for its enticing promise of success and fame inhibit us from reaching our full potentials.
I know because I've been there. I've spent months creating subpar websites and online shops because I was striving for an unachievable level of perfection. I've got hundreds of unpublished blog post ideas, spanning several categories and years worth of creative thinking.
You guys, that is unacceptable.
Watching your life go by while you don't live up to your dreams, while you don't even really give it a go.. that's no way to live. You know that and yet you probably still let it get in your way.
I talk a lot about worthy goals here, but perfectionism is not a worthy goal. A perfect painting, a perfect website, a perfect home, a perfect life.. it just doesn't exist. We live in a world where comparing our lives to others is nearly second nature, resulting in a seemingly never-ending cycle of self-doubt and fear.
Creativity does not exist in the presence of perfectionism. It cripples our ability to think freely and to find our own self-worth. Perfectionism leads us down the road to "I'm not good enough land" and that, my friend, is a place you don't want to be. Nothing but unhappiness lives there.
You don't have to live in that cycle anymore.
I could never tell you that you will never struggle with perfectionism again. It's in your nature after all. You like things perfect because you're smart, you know how capable you are and you yearn for happiness of the highest form. You're also a human person (hint: me too) with flaws and an unpredictable life and there are things that you can do to cope with your desire to be perfect. It wasn't until I adopted these life skills that I realized that my quest for perfectionism was doing me more harm than good. You can still be damn good, but don't let perfectionism deceive you and block you from living your dream life.
Repeat after me: I am not perfect and that's a really good thing. Perfect is boring.
> Adopt a beginner's mindset
If you're just starting out at something, realize that you are in the beginning stages, which can be ugly and confusing. Everyone starts here. Everyone. Even if you've been doing something for a long time and you make a shift or try to learn something new, you will need to adopt a beginner's mindset. Being a beginner means you have a lot ahead of you - how exciting is that?
> Face your fears
Why is perfect something you want to attain? What will happen if you aren't perfect? What will happen if your work isn't perfect? We often hide behind perfectionism because we are afraid that we can't achieve something or we are afraid of what will happen when we do. People will still love you and your work will still have value - I need you to believe that.
> Make a list of all the times imperfect turned out okay
You could really just write one bullet point here that says "everything I've ever done, ever." But that might not quite work. Instead, try to think of a time when you didn't quite get the A+, when you felt like something could have been better. Did you get through it? I'm going to give that a big fat yes. If you're here, then you did.
> Come back to reality
Float on back down from that dream world you're living in. Stop imaging success and happiness and start LIVING it. Being a dreamer is all good, but it doesn't get you anywhere if you never come back to reality, if you never take action. Perfectionism harbors self-doubt, which often leads to extreme procrastination. You deserve to live those dreams, so come on back down.
> Finish something imperfect
Even when you know it's not your greatest work, finish anyway. This is an incredibly hard thing to do for a perfectionist. The tendency to edit and refine and edit again and then never show our work is strong. One time, publish something that you maybe only edited once. No taking it back. No deleting it after a few hours. Just let it be in the world. You will gain an insane amount of confidence knowing that your work is worthy of being in the world, even in its imperfect state. You just might not be able to stop doing this.
> Be really bad at something
Like.. on purpose. Choose to do something new or that you already know you don't excel at. The key is to care and be invested in the activity, but understand that you may not be perfect. This exercise humbles you and will ultimately build your confidence. You will learn to deal with perfectionism in the flesh, you will learn that you can still have fun without being perfect and you will learn to ask for help when you need it.
> See through the facade
Let's address the issue of comparison for just a second here. We all do it. The people you compare yourself to compare themselves to other people. We are all doing our best to put our best foot forward, but often what we see on the outside is just not real or not the whole story. It isn't bad - doing good work and being creative and showing off your joy is a really great thing. The problem isn't all the beautiful things you see on Instagram. The problem is your reaction. See everyone as a person just like you. Imagine what it would be like to meet this person. Have you ever met someone in real life who was the definition of perfection? I bet not. We all get lipstick on our teeth and make things that don't work out. If you just can't deal, delete the people who bring out this negative reaction in you until you can deal with it again. Delete one or delete one hundred. It isn't worth it to fill your social media feeds with inspiration if that inspiration is bringing you down.
> Change your perspective
What would feel better than being perfect? Finishing something. (tweet that) Receiving valuable feedback. Connecting with friends, old and new. Feeling a true sense of home. Loving yourself. Being confident. Creating without fear. Trying something new. A passionate relationship with your lover. Authentic friendships. The list goes on and on.
> Accept yourself
Tell yourself every day that you are great just the way you are. Notice your flaws and love yourself anyway. Easier said than done, right? You have to do this in every single moment of your life. As a perfectionist, it will not likely ever be enough to just know this, you have to learn to believe it. Repetition is key. We tell kids all the time that they don't have to be perfect, they just have to try. You have to tell yourself that too. Every single day. You deserve happiness.
Do you struggle with perfectionism? It's pretty common among creatives of all types and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Comment below with your best coping strategy.