Perfectionist. It’s a label I’ve never applied to myself. I’ve seen it in others, though. Take my daughter, for example. When she was little, she’d draw a circle, scrunch it up, throw it away and try again. One. Two. Three strikes and she was OUT! Nothing half-ass was good enough for her. Me, on the other hand — nobody has ever accused me of being a perfectionist!
Mastin Kipp, an author, entrepreneur and inspirational speaker, says: “Perfectionism is a dream killer, because it’s just fear disguised as trying to do your best.”
How many dreams has your perfectionism killed?
Being a perfectionist isn’t all scribbles, scrunched paper and tantrums. It can be far more subtle; so subtle that you don’t even realize you’ve become a pro at it.
You might be a serious planner.
Planning is good, right? Sure, to a certain degree it is. But planning also feels far safer than actually beginning. Once you dig your teeth in and begin to pursue a dream, you’re vulnerable to failure. That’s not a comfortable place to be so you keep on planning until you have the perfect plan — and then you plan some more, just to be safe.
Don’t stop scrolling! Adorable kitten video ahead.
Maybe you’re an obsessive researcher.
When making big decisions, it’s good to do your homework, but there is such a thing as too much homework! In the pre-internet days (yes, I was alive then), we only had so much information at our fingertips. Read this. Read that. Make a decision. BAM! Now, though, with so much content readily available, we can easily research our dreams away.
Perhaps right now just isn’t the right time.
Fair enough. Sometimes the timing’s not right. Then again, sometimes it is and you’re just kidding yourself. You don’t need to live in Tuscany to find inspiration for your paintings. Nor do you need a pretty little studio at the end of your yard. You need paper, a few paint supplies, an hour or two once or twice a week, and your imagination.
Or maybe you’re just very detail-oriented.
Whether you’re trying to climb the corporate ranks or get your roses to bloom, attention to detail can undoubtedly lead to greater success. That’s very different from perfectionism, though. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, perfectionism is “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.” Translation: nothing less than 100% will do. That’s a bit steep, don’t you think? Yet so many people wear perfectionism like a badge of honour.
Perfectionism: A personal case study.
As any blogger will tell you, writing blog posts is one thing. Getting people to actually read them is an entirely different beast. I’d been feeling overwhelmed so I signed up for a course that would help me break my blogging ambitions into approachable chunks — or “bite-sized” goals. Goal #1: Write two new posts a week.
Nadalie, the course facilitator, challenged me and my fellow participants to take action towards Goal #1 every day, for five consecutive days. “To find just five minutes to just start where you are, whether you’ve created your plan or not.” So I wrote myself a list of easy actions I could take each day: brainstorm blog topics, create a publishing calendar, block off writing time, etc.
Nadalie had other ideas, or should I say, she had BIGGER ideas. “I know this might sound a bit nuts, but you could also push yourself to publish 5 posts, in 5 days…I found when I did my own 5 days of publishing I started to let go of perfectionism and just let it flow, release it and publish.”
She was right; it sounded NUTS. I accepted her challenge nonetheless, and that’s when I realized …
Being a perfectionist had been standing in my way!
A copywriter by trade, I’m pretty die-hard when it comes to the quality of my writing. My clients pay me a decent penny to help them get their messages across well and I take that responsibility seriously, labouring over every sentence to get it just right. The thing is, this blog was supposed to be my chance to write without labour. But there I was spending hours upon hours trying to birth perfect posts that would please and delight everyone who came across them. Impossible.
I was being a perfectionist, and truth be told, I wasn’t having much fun. As a result, I found myself publishing less and less frequently, and moving further away from my blogging dream instead of towards it.
The pursuit of perfection has derailed us. Somewhere along the way the need to win has been interpreted and translated into the need to be perfect. (Striving for perfection all but kills innovation — Forbes, November 2017)
In order to complete Nadalie’s challenge without compromising my job, my family and my life, I was going to have to tap into my thought du jour, mull it over for a little, and then start writing — less from the mind and more from the heart. So that’s what I did. I stopped worrying about who was going to be reading my posts and who may or may not judge me. I started to let my sentences structure themselves instead of obsessing over them. I put authenticity before perfection, and the words began to flow.
Kill your perfectionism before it kills your dreams!
In my case, being a perfectionist stopped me mid-track, but more often than not, perfectionism kills our dreams before we’ve even begun to pursue them!
We convince ourselves we can’t get started until we have all our ducks in a row. I’ve never actually seen anyone trying to get ducks lined up in a row, but I’ve watched this kitten video over and over (and over) again and let me tell you — whoever is waiting to pursue their dreams once these cutie-pies are sitting pretty might as well abandon them (the dreams, not the kittens) now, because it’s never going to happen!
Whether your perfectionist nature has you planning excessively, researching obsessively, or struggling to get a pile of teeny kittens into a neat little row, identify it, reflect on it, and take the necessary steps to tame it — because you really do have the power to make your dreams come true.
Viv for today xo
(Originally published June 2018)
I believe things happen for a reason. You landed on this page because you’re open to becoming a more authentic, fulfilled and self-aware human being. So am I. Let’s do this together. Before you leave, take a moment to sign up for MY NEWSLETTER so we can keep in touch.