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Are You a Perfectionist Too?

I’ve been procrastinating. I have blog posts to write, articles to create, and talks to develop, but I keep putting them off. Why? Because they have to be perfect, and faced with creating perfection, it’s easier for me to just not start at all. In fact, simply thinking about starting paralyzes me.

This week I am meeting my writing block head on by blogging about it. I see you, perfectionism, and I’m not going to let you hide. I’m going to pull you out, call you out, hold you up to the light and see what develops. I’m a recovering perfectionist, so this isn't the first time I've had to pull out the magnifying glass and take a good look at my perfectionist tendencies.

I’m fairly certain that my perfectionism was born thanks to my parents, who were extreme perfectionists (is that even possible?), and it blossomed while I was in post-secondary school, when I decided there was no reason I could not achieve 100% in all subjects. Did I mention that perfectionism is not logical or reasonable?

While my perfectionism is probably responsible for many of my good grades, it is also responsible for delayed and decreased productivity, and me beating myself up over work that was simply good enough. In fact, I was constantly beating myself up when I didn't measure up. I was horrible to myself.

Logically I know that no one can write a perfect blog post. There is no such thing as perfect. Believing we can be perfect and honestly striving for it is like believing unicorns do exist and that we are going to find one if it’s the last thing we do, dammit!

There is only perfection in imperfection. Nature is perfect, yet imperfect. If you’re a tree, you don’t need to be improved upon, you’re perfect just the way you are, even is your trunk is knotty, none of your leaves are the same size and you’re a little crooked. If nature is perfect, and humans are part of nature, it follows that humans are exactly the way we are meant to be, flaws and all, perfect in our imperfections.

I can see that my blog post can’t be perfect, and I don’t need to strive for it to be. Just because I’m not striving for perfection, doesn’t mean I can’t create something good, or even great. I used to believe that if I didn’t aim for perfection, I would get lazy and produce half-assed results. But that wasn’t true, it was just a belief I had, and just because we believe something, doesn’t necessarily make it true.

There are many ways to motivate ourselves other than with perfectionism. My favourite method is to change the thoughts that support perfectionism…

  • “This has to be perfect.”

  • “No one is going to read this post unless it’s the best post ever written.”

  • “What are people going to think of me if this isn’t perfectly written?” (<gasp!>)

  • And my personal favourite: “Writing this post is going to be excruciatingly hard work and I will suffer immensely while doing it.”

…into thoughts that are more realistic and support creating a product that is good enough. Here are some of the new thoughts that help me get started:

  • “I don’t have to write it all in one shot. I can work on this post for five or ten minutes to start with. A little bit at a time is the key.”

  • “All it needs to be is good enough. Good enough for people to read and enjoy, and possibly learn something.”

  • “It is unlikely that any of my readers click on one of my blog posts thinking, “This better be perfect, or else!”

  • “I’m fine once I get started.”

By simply changing my thoughts around the task of writing a blog post, I was able to sit down and actually write this post with a lot more ease than usual. Perfectionism makes everything much, much harder than it needs to be, so dropping the goal of perfection makes a lot of sense. I get more done without it, I’m more creative and take more risks. Perfectionism be gone!*

*Caveat: Dropping it isn’t a one time thing, it's an ongoing process.

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