Writing terrifies me. I’ve jumped from a rickety plane at 12,000 feet but that’s child’s play compared to my fear of blank paper. It’s similar for all creative endeavors. The possibilities are endless. Which means there are endless ways to fuck up.
I used to identify as a perfectionist. I was an all-in or nothing kind of guy. Everything in my world was either Good or Shit. Combine that mindset with a hyper critical brain, self esteem battles and crippling self doubt. You guessed it. I could never satisfy my demonic standards.
Fear Drives Perfectionism
Fear and perfectionism go hand in hand. We wave the perfectionist flag because we can’t deal with our own imperfections. We hate that life isn’t perfect. It sucks that life can’t be easily packaged into boxes all prim and proper.
We crave right answers. We’re addicted to accomplishments. We try to hold onto concrete things because we’re painstakingly aware of the transience of life. Yes, we’re all going to die.
So with white knuckles we hang on to perfection as a blanket against death. Perfection is the best protection against inevitable change. We harness perfection to create fantasies of security and stability.
All excuses. I confess, I mask my own cowardice under the guise of perfectionism— I’ve been procrastinating this piece for days because I’m so scared of it being sub par. I use perfectionism as an excuse to not do something.
Tasks often seem enormous and damn right impossible in our minds because we blow things all out of proportion. We want perfect little everythings…and so we end up doing fuck all. The whining brigade throws torrential tantrums — If only conditions were right! If only my team wasn’t full of useless scrubs! If only all the pieces in the puzzle fit PERFECTLY.
More excuses. We mask our insecurities, doubts, and fears in meaningless pursuit of the unattainable.
Perfection is a myth. Nothing is ever truly perfected. Everything can be improved and done better.
And that’s okay. This is great news! You don’t need to be perfect. Nobody is.
Procrastination, Go Fuck Yourself
Perfectionists battle procrastination all day every day. We’re not unmotivated or lazy. We’re just too scared to start. If anything, perfectionists are probably over-motivated. We don’t want to feebly scrape by the bare minimum. We want to smash charts, kick ass and take names.
The solution is inherent in the problem — JUST START. That’s it. No magic potions. No sacrificial lambs. Follow your fears. Take baby steps.
Vincent Van Gogh’s got your back,
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
Starting is the key that snowballs you to victory. It doesn’t matter whether your end-result is gold or horseshit. Didn’t we say that nothing's perfect and it can always be improved? It won’t matter anyway if you don’t do anything.
The danger of perfectionism is that it discourages you from starting. Perfectionism tells you to give up before you even try.
FUCK. THAT. SHIT.
Hop on the imperfection train. It’s a juicy ride where every step is a step in the right direction. Great, you failed miserably. At least you now have data points to reflect upon. How can you improve next time? What can you do now to increase the probability for future success? Think about it.
Sweet, now do it.
Imperfection is a Gift
We’re fed this stupid lie that success is linear. Ask anybody you look up to, read too many books or watch too many TED talks and every single one of them will demonstrate that success is anything but linear. Counter intuitively, awe-inspiring success is often defined and crafted in the face of countless failures.
“As gold is tempered by fire, so strong men are tempered by suffering.” — Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher
Perfectionism oversimplifies and belittles the process of consistent effort, hard work and grit which forms the foundation for sustainable success. Talent be damned.
Good things start happening when we strive for continual improvement over perfection. Our egos no longer enslave us in the world of rightness and correctness. Screw right answers. Keep asking questions. Keep going. Keep improving. We are going to mess up a lot. No worries. Dust yourself off, have a giggle and keep going. Celebrate your wins and learn from your failures.
Perfectionism creates useless negativity loops. We bash ourselves for being not good enough for being failures sorry mom sorry dad we’re useless why be born blahbbalbhablhablhbablhab. We mistakenly chain our identities to what we do. We falsely believe that our failures in life reflect our inability to function as human beings. That’s why we think silly things like “my project failed, which means I’m a failure.”
Step back. Take a deep breath.
Wow. Shit. At least you did SOMETHING. That’s already a gazillion times better than scratching your ass all day. If you’re the kind of person that vibes with perfectionism, chances are you’re always hungry to do more. Oh, overachievers. It’s always GO GO GO in your life, eh?
Showing up doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get a trophy. But you’ve tossed your name in the hat. Now make good on that promise.
Channel your negative energy into positive outcomes. Negativity is powerful and productive when used beneficially. Embrace imperfection. Make shit happen. Start.
And whenever your legs turn to jello because you’re too scared to do what needs to be done, remember
Perfection is poison. Good is good enough.