Ever since I could walk I have delighted in writing, drawing, and anything which allows me to be creative. For instance, in an attempt at creating my own ‘books’, 6-year-old me would fold a stack of A4 paper in half, staple the sides together and begin scribbling. One story which sticks in my mind is a tale of an apple and a banana who stumble upon a tomato. They then proceed to have a heated argument on whether it was a fruit or a vegetable – gripping stuff, I know.
Another one of my creations was a Bratz doll magazine (please tell me someone else was obsessed with these) which I assembled when I was about seven or eight. It consisted of dot to dot pages, word searches, and the all-important, ‘which Bratz doll are you?’ quiz. I then got my dad to photocopy them and sold them to my friends and family for a bargain price of 2p each. I was a girl who knew how to make a profit.
On the whole, I was a creative child. I allowed my mind to wander and I didn’t stop to think, ‘is this good enough?’, I just created what I wanted. While my stories and ‘magazines’ might not have been hitting the bestseller lists anytime soon, I had fun. However, one day, I stopped writing stories, I stopped setting my mind free, and why?
Perfectionism is the enemy of progress
Perfectionism crept up and caught me in its grip. I started to fear that everything I wrote or created wasn’t good enough. It is the desire to achieve perfection which stopped me in my tracks, and I’m not alone when I say this. So, why is it that perfectionism hinders our progress and stops us from reaching our goals?
Welcome preachy Evie in 3,2…
It Creates Anxiety and a Feeling of Worthlessness.
What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those under its spell desire success, they are most preoccupied with avoiding failure, so their attitude ultimately becomes negative.
Perfectionists strive for the best and fear failure. Take this blog for example. I lingered over the idea of starting up my own blog for years. What stopped me was the fear of whatever I wrote not being good enough, no one reading it, or overall feeling that it would be pointless. No matter how many times I sat down and wrote, I didn’t think it was worthy.
Despite how much I enjoy writing, perfectionism prevented me from posting my content online. Moreover, if I did create something, I’d always be left feeling as if it could be better. A quote which encapsulates this is ‘allowing perfectionism to run the show is like being on a hamster wheel’; you just keep going and going and going, even after you’ve reached your original goal.
Fear of failure dominates and ultimately, progress becomes impossible. However, if you are passionate about something, don’t let your perfectionism hold you back. At the end of the day, nothing will ever be perfect. Sometimes we need failure to recognise our mistakes and progress. What’s more, creativity is subjective, so, people are always going to enjoy different content.
Today, while yes I still hesitate when hitting the blue publish button, I write because I enjoy it. I know not everything is going to be flawless and some posts will be better than others. Don’t let doubt stop you.
It Causes Procrastination
Perfection, of course, is an abstraction, an impossibility, and often it leads to procrastination.
It is a vicious circle really. You want to do something, be it write a novel or design a website. However, the fear of it not being first-class quality, or not going well provokes procrastination. As I did with my blog, you dillydally until eventually, years have passed and you haven’t progressed. Perfectionists who procrastinate set unrealistic expectations and then avoid work to rid themselves of the anxiety it causes.
The thought of writing a novel, for instance, seems impossible, overwhelming, a project which is far too big and therefore is a cause of anxiety. So, what do we do? We avoid these activities and consequently, don’t progress. Instead, to tackle these projects, think about what needs to be done, how to make it happen, and break it into smaller and more manageable pieces.
I could have started this blog years ago, but because I procrastinated, all I have done is lost time. Just look at how quick this year has flown by. Time isn’t stopping for anyone, so remove distractions, make a plan, and start progressing today.
Fear of Judgement
Perfectionism causes us to worry about what other people will think of our work or achievements. What if they don’t like it? Will people laugh? Are people going to judge me? In time, people’s words and perceptions of us shape our own beliefs about ourselves.
Furthermore, we’re guilty of judging ourselves. We rate or grade ourselves in comparison to others, be it online or in real life, in almost everything we do. And, we almost always come up short in our estimation. However, it is this comparing mindset which hinders progress and creativity. It’s important to remember that each of us work and learn in different ways.
Social media, in particular, puts a ton of pressure on us to be perfect; we need to look a certain way, have a certain number of followers, or make a certain amount of money. Amid all of that pressure, it’s easy to forget who we are and what we actually want to achieve.
Despite what you may think, judgment is essential for success. Rather than blocking your path, other people’s opinions and judgement will help you progress.
It’s important to stop comparing ourselves to others and create for ourselves. We need to be confident in our own abilities and know our own shortcomings. That’s when our best work will flourish.
So, what else can we do to avoid perfectionism’s trap?
Find a routine
Creating a routine in which you can spend some time, be it 15 minutes or 2 hours, to write, create, whatever it is, each day will help you to form a habit and progress.
Perhaps in those 2 hours, 80% of what I write is complete waffle and three pages of me rambling. However, tomorrow I can spend my scheduled time sieving through the drivel and improve the work. Nothing is going to be how you want it at first. The important thing is to stop when you’re happy with what you’ve created and ignore perfectionism’s voice saying it’s not good enough.
Create to-do lists
Tackling big projects can seem overwhelming. However, by separating the project into smaller, more manageable chunks, it will become more achievable. Write a list of everything you need to do in order to progress towards your final goal. Evernote is perfect for saving any ideas you may have and making lists, all in one place. Organisation is key to avoid feeling dumbfounded.
Ultimately, the fear of something not being good enough will only prevent progress. So, overlook your fears, quit procrastinating and embrace all judgement you may receive.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this longer post – I procrastinated for way too long when it came to starting up my blog. I’m just so glad that I finally got around to doing it.
Would you call yourself a perfectionist? Let me know in the comments!
Until the next post,