I have a love-hate relationship with perfectionism. I want to do things perfectly. I feel good when I do things perfectly, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to.
Too often, that fear has dictated how I do—or don’t do—important things. Too often, I’ve stuffed my brave into a small closet as fear declared I couldn’t do it.
Recently, I was trying to write my first email for a newsletter. The words wouldn’t come together. So, I organized electronic files. I watched snow drift outside my window.
And I ignored the blank screen on my laptop.
What if I did it wrong?
What if no one likes my writing?
What if I don’t say things in a way people engage with?
What if it’s (gulp) BORING?
Instead of attempting it, I defaulted to false productivity.
This is a disappointing tendency to discover within myself. When I know I need to do something, but I don’t think I’ll get it right? I avoid it.
I’ve caught myself doing this when stymied on a story element. I get stuck on a scene and want to get it just right. I start to analyze, and then I freeze.
I research. I organize my digital photos, I purge piles in my home . . . all the while turning my back to the task I need to confront.
There’s a place for “Mulling” as my friend Beth Vogt says, or pondering how to approach the challenge.
But if that takes a week, or two (yes, I’m guilty of this), that’s avoiding.
I guess I’m not as much of a recovering perfectionist as I thought.
The thing is, if I don’t try at all? I’ll never move forward. I’ve considered what holds me back from living out the Nike motto: Just Do It.
Signs of a perfectionist include:
*Not attempting something at all because it can’t be done perfectly, or “right” the first time
*Feeling stalled by a task because I don’t know how to do it just right
*Faking myself out by completing minor jobs because I just can’t face the one task that needs to be completed
*Overcoming a perfectionistic thought process requires a change in perspective. Instead of perfection, maybe I need to focus on good enough.
Here are six mindsets that help us move beyond perfectionism:
1. There’s almost nothing that must be done “perfectly” the first time. We often have more chances to shape that thing (whatever it is) into what it needs to be.
2. Completing one step imperfectly stills moves us further along than avoiding it. No one’s going to read the first draft of my story. But, attempting something, whatever the project—even if it’s less than perfect—is moving forward.
3. Fear of failure or of not doing something “perfectly” holds us back. We need to confront our fear head-on if we want to overcome.
4. Most of the time, doing something well is enough. Holding ourselves to a standard of perfection only leaves us feeling less-than.
5. Only one perfect Person walked the earth—ever—and we’re not Him. We’re going to make mistakes. The beauty of mistakes is we learn from them and do things differently next time.
6. God knows what needs to be done and how. When we pray and ask for His help, He will answer. When we remember He’s on this journey with us? It releases some of the pressure to be perfect.
In the times when we struggle with fear and feel like something must be done “just right,” let’s give ourselves grace to do it “good enough” for the first pass. Then we have something we can go back and improve upon.
Sometimes, I have to tell my inner perfectionist, that inner fear-voice, to shush it. I need to put on my brave and just to the thing, even if it is imperfect.
What about you? What tendencies have you noticed that reveal perfectionism? What helps you not fall into the perfectionist trap
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