Overcoming perfectionism can be hard. We are all conditioned from a young age to be perfect. In school we are taught to strive for getting an A and to always know the right answer.
Later on in life we are taught that we are suppose to be perfect or at least smarter than the other guy in order to get a high paying job and succeed. In fact it seems as though we are conditioned to believe that the people who are successful are pretty much perfect in every way.
Great investors are suppose to know everything about the company they are investing into and never make a mistake by picking a bad investment and losing money. Great painter like Leonardo Da Vinci and Pablo Picasso are suppose to be gifted and become the hallmark of perfection when they pick up a paint brush.
“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” Robert Schuller
Obsessive perfectionism has a lot of pitfalls. At its most basic level it takes away from creativity. To live and work without obsessing over making something exact means you can venture out and try new things.
By trying new things you understand that they may not be perfect and you may be embarrassed, but you may also find a better way of doing something and improve the world as a whole.
Perfectionism also leads to low self esteem because you are aiming for something which cannot be reached and assuming others have been able to reach this unrealistic level in the past. This leads you to ask yourself, “what is wrong with me? Why is nothing I do perfect? And why can others be so successful?”
Comparing yourself with others is already a bad idea and can lead to a low self esteem, but if you assume that they are perfect at what they do it only makes you feel worse about yourself.
As you create the image of other people being flawless at something or reaching unrealistic levels it only hurts the image you have of yourself as you wonder why you have been unable to reach that same level.
By trying to be perfect you are continuously working on something and never accomplishing anything. You try to build something that will stand the test of time and be the thing you will always be remembered for, but if it is never good enough for you then it will never get created. You will never see any results and all of the work you put into your projects is wasted. At some point you have to take action and say, “this is good enough” otherwise you will end up with nothing.
I’m sure that deep down you know why overcoming perfectionism is so important. Unfortunately there is no simple perfectionism treatment. Dealing with perfectionism is just like dealing with any other bad habit.
If you want to change it then you are going to have to take action and keep taking action until you have a new habit in its place. It is all about changing your mindset and overcoming your natural tendencies to want to tweak and change every little detail on a project until you find yourself working on that project your whole life or at least a lot longer then you need to.
Overcoming perfectionism is a constant struggle that will take some time and energy. You might need some motivation before you begin, so here are some reasons to change your mind set. They can help motivate you to worry less about the small stuff and to get more things done.
Perfection Does Not Exist
In school overcoming perfectionism isn’t a problem because perfection does exist. You can get 100% on a test or on your homework if you study hard enough. But even that is an illusion. It does not mean you are perfect, it simply means you know as much about a certain set of questions as the person who originally created the test.
In real life there is no such thing as perfection, and even if there was, things change. You can spend a lifetime trying to create an outfit that is perfectly stylish only to find that the trends have changed. Or you can spend your life trying to make a perfect encyclopedia of all human knowledge only to find that information changed.
The same astute scholars that say the world is flat today may say it is round tomorrow. Life is all about changing and adapting to situations as they appear, perfection cannot happen because life does not sit still long enough to let it happen.
Nobody is Perfect
One of the reasons for wanting to create things that are perfect is because the things we create represent us. We don’t want to look foolish in front of other people and if we create things that are foolish and have flaws it means we have flaws as well.
The thing to remember here is that you are not perfect. You have flaws and bad habits just like the rest of us. The goal in life is not to hide your flaws and pretend to be some superhuman being, but to embrace them and challenge yourself to grow and try out new things.
“A child becomes an adult when he realizes that he has a right not only to be right but also to be wrong.”–Thomas Szasz
Don’t be afraid to look stupid or do something foolish, odds are you are the only one who cares about the image you’ve created for yourself.
Do Things For The Joy Of Doing Them
One of the ways of overcoming perfectionism is to stop worrying so much about the outcome of something and start putting more time and energy into the process.
When you are passionate about your work and are not focusing on having to get everything done to perfection you can take a step back and take chances. By approaching things a little differently you might end up making a fool of yourself, or you might end up creating something truly remarkable.
The amazing thing is, nobody remembers when you make an idiot out of yourself, but they always remember how you were innovative and created a new solution.
Realize That Failures Are Part of The Process
Life is a process of learning, as you try new things and don’t worry about making everything perfect you can end up giving more to the world.
As a result you learn from your successes and failures. We are all afraid to fail and to be looked down upon, but it is all part of the process that we need to go through to grow.
“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” Saint Augustine
When we attempt something and fail we learn and we grow. We can take what we have learned to do even better next time and produce something great. Trial and error is one of the keys to success in life, so it should come as no surprise that some of the biggest names in history have failed multiple times before they were successful.
Steven Spielberg one of the most successful film producers was placed in a learning-disabled class in junior high school.
Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed. He would later build one of the largest companies in the world, “Ford” and become one of the richest men of his time.
Einstein couldn’t even get a job in physics so he had to work as a patent clerk. He would later become the most famous scientist of all time.
When we think of successful people we think of people who had no flaws, were gifted, and were perfect in every way shape and forum. But that isn’t how it works at all. To be good at something you must take chances and grow from your failures.
You can’t be afraid of not being perfect the first time around; instead you just focus on improving yourself. Why try to be perfect when perfection doesn’t exist?
Imperfection Makes Things Beautiful
Imagine you are sitting next to a very attractive member of the opposite sex. They are Smart, Rich, Good Looking, and Very Warm Hearted. They have all the traits that people want when looking for a soul mate, but something isn’t right. They are unreal.
There is just too much good about this person that we can’t relate to them, they are out of our league, there out of everybody’s league for that matter.
Now imagine this same person has a dimple on their left cheek. This makes them less attractive and gives them some imperfection, but at the same time it can turn into something that we love about them and come to admire when we are with them.
By having some imperfection we can relate to them. We know they are only human and they have flaws like the rest of us. That is why living things are so beautiful, because they aren’t perfect and we can understand each other.
“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” Alice Walker
In Japan there is actually a phrase “wabi sabi” which means that things are beautiful because of their flaws, since nothing can be perfect it is the imperfections we remember and admire.
Think about it like this, would you rather buy a painting of the Eiffel tower in Paris or a Photograph of it? You’d want the painting despite knowing that there has to be flaws in the painting and that there are no flaws in the picture.
In the day and age where machines can spit out 1,000s of perfect pieces of clothing why do people still love to buy things that are handmade, despite knowing that handmade items are made with flaws and imperfections and machine made items are less flawed?
The answer; there is something to this imperfection thing. Before you spend all your time trying to be perfect and never getting anything done, remember that sometimes it is exactly the imperfections that make things truly precious. That is something to remember when you are overcoming perfectionism.
So, how are you overcoming perfectionism?