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The Myth of Perfectionism

“When perfection gets in the way of taking your first step”

Let’s talk about the myth of perfectionism. We may know that perfectionism is unachievable, but that doesn’t stop us from chasing after it and putting it on a pedestal. Perfectionism keeps us burdened with unrealistic expectations and paralyzed to ever take the first step. We all struggle with it to some degree. 

The heart of perfectionism is fear. Fear of not being in control. 

See, we live in a society that values certainty, control and results at all costs. It’s no wonder that we feel fearful when we lose our sense of control. This kind of fear is universal and common. It’s nothing to feel ashamed of. Elizabeth Gilbert said it well, “perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat.” 

 “Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome.” (Elizabeth Gilbert) That’s why creativity is both so intimidating AND needed. Creativity thrives when we can let go of control, welcome the unexpected, and allow the process to take over. 

I challenge my perfectionism and need for control by doing The 100-Day Project, where you choose a creative project to do for 100 days.

I know. The #100DayProject can sound like a recipe for burnout and overachievement, right? Why would I commit to such a huge project and set myself up for disappointment? What does this have to do with overcoming perfectionism?

Well, I will tell you that I’ve done the #100DayProject for 6 years now. Each year I ask myself the same question, “Am I really going to do this again?” My mind squirms and struggles. I resist. I know why this project is difficult and it’s not because of the work involved. No. It’s hard because, when done honestly, it can really hurt my ego. 

  • There are many ways I can publicly fail (aka: humiliation)
  • It’s uncomfortable for me to post “bad” art (aka: inner perfectionist is roaring)
  •  I didn’t complete last year’s project, so how can I start something new?  (aka: not willing to move forward)
  • I don’t have a clever/brilliant enough idea yet (aka: wanting to impress)
  • Whatever I do has to be more impressive than last year (aka: high expectations)
  • I’d rather not be so transparent and honest in my process (aka: I’m a hot mess)

All of these reasons are legitimate. And they also protect my ego from being bruised. But this is exactly WHY it’s so good for me. Perfectionism thrives on these internal fears and false stories. But creativity invites us into the unknown and the world of uncertainty. That is the place of letting go of control. It’s the place of sweet, creative surrender.

And that will be the first step to free us from the myth of perfectionism.

 

 


This week's quote:

“Perfectionism doesn't believe in practice shots. It doesn't believe in improvement. Perfectionism has never heard that anything worth doing is worth doing badly -- and that if we allow ourselves to do something badly we might in time become quite good at it. Perfectionism measures our beginner's work against the finished work of masters. 

 Perfectionism thrives on comparison and competition. It doesn't know how to say, ‘Good try,’ or ‘Job well done.’ The critic does not believe in creative glee -- or any glee at all, for that matter. No, perfectionism is a serious matter.”

― Julia Cameron, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance

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