I don’t know about you, but I’m a perfectionist. I’ll often spend more time analyzing my work than I do actually working. (Oh hey, I’m doing it right now with these opening sentences. What a great start.)
If you’re a perfectionist, don’t feel bad. You have great qualities, such as diligence, loyalty, and a desire for excellence. We need people like you and I in this world, but as perfectionists, we’ve got to learn how to manage our gifts, lest they become a hindrance.
We are Adventurers
As perfectionists, we strive for greatness in everything we do—especially when making things. The irony, however, is that the creative life demands imperfection.
Creativity is an act of exploration; of experimentation. You and I are not merely “creatives”, we are adventurers, and adventures often take unexpected (and imperfect) turns. In order to live the fullest life, we must learn to accept this and stop perfectionism from killing our creative sense of adventure.
The Attack on Creativity
If we’re not careful, our desire for excellence and our dedication to our work can transform from a thruster to a roadblock before we know it. As a perfectionist myself, I’ve identified five ways perfectionism tends to assault creativity:
#1: IT CAUSES YOU TO COMPARE YOUR WORK TO OTHERS
Comparison is one of the biggest killers of creativity ever. When you put your focus on others, it hardens you against the beauty of your own work and the value of your own talents. Instead of seeing fellow creatives as partners, you begin to view them as competitors: people you must be better than to succeed. This not only kills creativity, it also causes your influence to suffer.
#2: IT CAUSES YOU TO PROCRASTINATE
Sometimes procrastination can be useful, but more often, we do it so much it becomes unhealthy. And most of the time, procrastination is a result of perfectionism. We’re too busy waiting until something is “good enough”, or until we’re “ready” before taking action.
#3: IT PUTS YOUR FOCUS ON YOUR WEAKNESSES
As creatives, we’re already prone to focusing on our areas of weakness. And while it’s always good to grow and improve, when we focus so intently on developing our weaknesses, we tend to ignore our strengths. Perfectionism is a notoriously negative mindset that puts our focus only on what we could do better rather than what we’re already skilled at.
#4: IT DISTORTS YOUR VIEW OF YOUR OWN WORK
We are all our own worst critics and perfectionists know this better than anyone. We have a tendency to overthink the slightest details and to spend more time revising than creating, and often, we end up hating our own work because we never find it up to par with our impossible standards.
#5: IT MAKES YOU FEARFUL TO CREATE
When we’re focused on creating something flawless, questions flood in from the corners of our minds: “Is this good enough?” “How can anyone appreciate this when it could be so much better?” “Why should I even bother making anything if I can’t do better? I’m a failure.” And when we fear failure, or not being good enough, we fear to create.
What to Do About It
So what can we do? Is perfectionism a trap?
Here’s what I want you to do about it: Keep your hunger for excellence. Keep your diligence. Work hard. But don’t focus on your weaknesses or on slight imperfections. Embrace your strengths. Use them to their fullest and then put your work out there. Stop hesitating and just do it.
Is this post perfect? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I’ve decided to be okay with that.
- Are you a perfectionist?
- How does perfectionism help or hinder your creativity?
- Have you struggled with the things in this post? How did you learn to overcome them?