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Is it even possible to overcome perfectionism? Is it possible to stop the cycle of try something > don’t do it perfectly the first time > give up > feel terrible > repeat?
Yes! It’s possible to stop being a perfectionist.
And why would you want to give up the pursuit of perfectionism?
Because it looks like this:
You decide you want to take on something new and exciting. You’re going to learn to rock climb or make videos for your business or write your novel. Wonderful!
You check out books at the library, read a few blogs, buy a harness/camera/computer and you’re pretty sure you set for success. You give it a try - a few tries even! - and things don’t go quite how you’d like.
Which is to say - they don’t go perfectly.
So you throw in the towel and walk away. Because if it’s not perfect, then you’re not interested.
If this is a page taken directly from the book of your life:
I know you can because I did. I’ve been a working actress for years (like, you’ve seen me in police dramas on your tv) so I thought that I’d be great at making videos for my online courses. If I can work on a movie, my filmed-at-home, made-with-my-phone videos should be perfect every time, right?
And when they weren’t, I very nearly threw in the towel on my videos and my whole business plan.
But after a lot of self-examination, I’ve worked past my perfectionist tendencies to find my personal sweet spot. These days I’m creating helpful, important work that I’m proud of - even if it has the occasional typo or misplaced “Ummmm.”
When I spent days re-filming my videos so every hair was in place and every word was perfectly enunciated, I was re-filming because I wanted people to think I was perfect. I wasn’t re-filming because I had something to add to the video, I was re-filming because I didn’t like my sweater.
Each day I wasted polishing my already-helpful videos to robot-like perfection was a day that I wasn’t helping clients prepare for speeches. It was a day that people weren’t getting access to my tips and suggestions. It was a day that I was being of service to absolutely no one.
It’s important that you’re proud of the products you release into the world, but before you give up on something or do a fifteenth round of edits - ask yourself why you’re doing it. Are we dawdling because we honestly believe our products could be better or because we wish we’d worn eyeliner in that video?
Remember that your work benefits people. They want your help and wisdom and they probably don’t care if there’s a typo.
Perfection is many things: boring, intimidating, unsustainable, and not real. Often, what we love most about people - their raucous laugh, their huge, curly hair, their need to put hot sauce on everything - are their less-than-perfections.
We like people we can relate to. Who among us can’t relate to the occasional bad hair day or punctuating a few sentences with “ya know?”
It’s okay to show people that you’re a real, live human being.
In fact, it’s advisable.
A few weeks ago, I witnessed my grandmother take her last breath. She held on, remarkably, until her youngest daughter arrived, defying medical explanation given the weakness of her vital organs. It was her last selfless act as a mother. She left on her terms, after 99 years of grace, wit, charm and a healthy dose of sarcasm.
At the funeral, the celebrant referenced a poem entitled “The Dash”, which referred to the small horizontal line between the year of one’s birth and the year of one’s death.
Everything in my life is timed via the cosmos. I’ve been doing this ever since I discovered astrology, back at the tender age of 15. At that time, I was simply trying to understand who I was.
Over time, I began to see that I was part of the Universe and when I learned to work with the energy, my life became magical. Instead of swimming upstream, I moved with the flow. Sometimes that meant taking bold action. Other times, I needed to sit still and wait.