Perfectionism: Just Stop

perfectionist

Are you a perfectionist? Are you ever satisfied with what you’ve done? Do you tweak things constantly?

I struggle a lot with being an over-achieving perfectionist. I want things to look right, sound right, read right. I straighten pictures (and silverware). I “tweak” and “tweak” and if I didn’t have deadlines, I’d continue to “tweak” until the end result bore no resemblance to the original idea. (Been there, done that… I’m now working with my first draft instead of my fourth.)

So, why do we strive for perfectionism?

Deep down, it has its roots in insecurity. What we’re really saying through a “perfectionist” drive is it’s never good enough. For who? Who are we trying to impress? Our mother? Our friends? God?

Your mother probably doesn’t care, and your friends won’t notice. You can’t impress God since… well, not only did He create the entire universe He already knows everything you will ever accomplish. (That really kills the surprise, doesn’t it?)

The drive for perfectionism brings to surface our secret fears: if we’re not perfect, others won’t like us. If we’re perfect, we can avoid criticism! The good news is – we can stop trying to be perfect since we’ll never be perfect and neither will anything we create. The bad news is – no matter how good it is, someone is going to hate it. We can write, and rewrite, and rewrite it again, someone is still going to say the writing is terrible!

What does our perfectionism do to us? It makes us feel inadequate, frustrated, and stressed. Above all, we kick into a self-abusive routine of going over and beyond, of spending countless hours on something and having people not only not appreciate it, but fail to even notice.

Imagine if we spent 6 hours styling our new haircut and our hubby didn’t notice. What happens? We’d get ticked off. Why? Because we “wasted” all that time and effort for no benefit (gushing, admiration, and compliments). But hubby loves you whether your hair is styled or not! He’s just as happy with a ponytail! WE hold ourselves to a much higher standard than he does – and blame him for it.

We’re not victims of our perfectionism, we’re volunteers. WE chose to spend 6 hours styling our hair, or 6 months revising a book that was probably fine in the first place.

No one asks us to be perfect (if they do, they suck), but we resent them for not noticing how hard we try. Isn’t it easier (and less emotional) just to do our best, give it one go-over, and move on?

And now, I’m gonna post this so I don’t tweak it. 😉

18 Replies to “Perfectionism: Just Stop”

  1. Oh look it’s a post aimed just at me 😉 …and over 90% of your other readers by the looks of it.

    I think the problem with perfectionism, or at any rate–why it can pose more of a problem for us compared to things we’re better at confronting, or view as being obviously a bad thing–is that we tend to connect perfectionism to high standards. But where does one stop and the other start? If we don’t have high standards, we’d never reach for the stars, but if we spend too much time agonizing over each detail, we’ll never leave earth. (Am I taking the rocket ship metaphor too far? ;))

    The problem–well, at least, a second aspect of the problem, is that you rarely hear of anyone telling you to be less picky, or to worry less about how good one’s writing/art etc; is. I think too, (or maybe this is just me after some painful experiences at fanfiction.net and whatnot :P), another issue is that we often see the result of what LOW standards can cause. We know what happens when lousy books get published, when some guy at the post office, grocery store etc; messes up, or when the combo of an incredibly talented cast and director still produce a box office bomb. Rarely do we get to see the result of the OPPOSITE danger 😛 All the amazing films that never get made–the books never written–the scientific concepts never ventured.

    PS
    Sorry for being so lax about commenting lately, my internet got cut off last week, prior to an installation, but the technician for the new installation was a long time coming 😛

    1. Obviously, the people who turn out rubbish don’t struggle with being perfectionists in the first place — so when it comes to our own stuff, I don’t think we have to worry much! Have high standards, do your best, give it a couple of go-overs… and move on. Your work is worth nothing if no one ever reads it!

      Oh, so you come back just as I go on hiatus? That’s… not good. LOL

  2. WOW! Great reminder – as always, Charity. Thanks for this snippet of wisdom.

    I think deep down, we use perfectionism as an excuse for not sharing things because ingrained in us is that seed that we aren’t “good enough.” For us, it’s writing. I am the biggest offender of “tweaks” and even after a dozen times reading, editing and re-wording, I still don’t always yield the result I desire.

    “Isn’t it easier (and less emotional) just to do our best, give it one go-over, and move on?”

    Um… yes but where’s the fun in that!? 😉

    1. For me, it depends on what it is — I work much harder on books because they’re so open to wide criticism than I would a blog post or a fanfiction. Often, it’s the fast-writing that gets me the most compliments — the stuff I don’t labor over, but just type out, post, and forget about; the late-night fanfiction scribbles that I put up the next morning after a spell-check, etc. Sometimes, I think we can ruin our best work by working on it too much — we need to learn to write it, sit on it a few hours (or weeks, if it’s a book), polish it, and then let it go. If people hate it, so what?

  3. When you feel obsession coming on, put on some music and dance! Laugh! Sing! It can be very stress relieving. Dancing tones your bum. Laughing tones your abs. And singing tones your neck. What more can a woman long for?

    1. I suspect so, because we’re the “fixers” in life — we’re always trying to figure out how to do something better, simpler, faster, etc. Yet, we’re also easily bored (or at least, I am!) so when you constantly fiddle with something, it’s pretty much guaranteed to drive you NUTS. 😛

  4. “Are you a perfectionist?” – unfortunately, yes.
    Reading posts like this are really a blessing – because I seem to need a constant reminder that being a perfectionist is a bad idea and will only cause me a life of stress and worry.
    I could probably talk forever on the subject, lol. You summed it up perfectly though – we are volunteers to it. We have to say no (to the perfectionism) and keep saying it.

    1. The drive for perfection sucks joy out of life. How can you love your work if you spend more time tearing it apart and redoing it than simply enjoying it? And why do we try and impress people we don’t know and NEVER WILL know? It’s really all about our pride! So if we catch ourselves doing it… we have to learn to “shut it off.”

  5. Fantastic post Charity! I am definitely one of those people who go over things (like posts, articles) a dozen times over because I want things as best/perfect as can be. I really need to take a step back, do my best and just keep moving forward. It can be hard, lol 😛

    1. “Done is better than perfect.” That’s something I have to remind myself of — better to finish it and throw it out into the world so you can work on another project than drive yourself nuts doing the same project for 15 years!

        1. Here’s another one:

          The world does not reward perfectionists. It rewards those who get things done! 😉

          Or maybe this will help:

          Lianne, I EXPECT THIS PROJECT TO GET FINISHED OR YOU’LL HAVE ME TO ANSWER TO!!

          No?

          Okay.

          1. Og Mandino, is a famous writer about self-help books. He was a perfectionists for his first couple of books. The editors would correct all his work. Yet, Mandino gave up perfecting all forms of editing. He said, “these editors are probably interns just out of High School.” After a while he gave up and most of his work was worded about the same. So, in this instance he was a writer not an editor.

            Yet, if someone looks at your work, that of whom you really want to impress. They are possibly looking at all your work.

            Here’s My question to you, “What kind of audience are you trying to attract?”

          2. I don’t know that I have an intended audience — I simply have a message, and anyone who cares to read it may do so! 🙂

          3. This is my (truth) perfectionism can be summed up – when the room for error is measure. Yet, “Charity can it be measured?” Really simple, ” What’s the silver lining?” We can go on forever with this subject… You got my attention. I am in the front row seat… Hahaha From here I am in the “AWE state.” AAAWWWEEEEEE 😛

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