Are You a Perfectionist?

Image by Josef Stuefer

 

Perfection.

What an incredibly frustrating ideal. A typical dictionary definition of “perfection” goes a little something like this:

“The state of being without a flaw or defect.”

What an absolutely absurd state to expect. Of yourself. Of others. Of anything. Why does this word even exist in the first place?!

I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. We’re not perfect.

And this entire article isn’t perfect either.

They all have flaws and defects. In fact, I can’t think of ANYTHING in the world that doesn’t have at least one flaw or defect.

Yet many of us continue to label ourselves as “perfectionists”, and think that this is a good way to be.

Is it really?

The “perfectionist”…

I have a confession to make – I’m a “recovering perfectionist” myself. I still have my relapses, of course, so this article is just as much for you as it is for me.

But what eventually got to me about being a perfectionist was that it:

  • ended up paralysing me from making important decisions,
  • prevented me from starting or completing something that was actually important to me,
  • just wasn’t all that much fun, to be honest!

Since we aren’t on this planet for ever, this goal of “perfectionism” needs to go. Otherwise it’s a recipe for never-ending unhappiness.

Yet many people wear “perfectionism” as some sort of badge of honour, or as a defensive shield to protect themselves from external criticism.

Perfectionism

I’m not necessarily saying that striving towards perfectionism is a bad thing. But I think there are two types of perfectionism that need to be identified first:

First type of perfectionism

One is the “I don’t like making mistakes so I want to ensure I avoid doing anything that might result in a mistake” attitude.

This can usually be just another form of laziness, procrastination, or – as author Steven Pressfield would call it – “Resistance“.

With this type of perfectionism, you basically prevent yourself from ever doing the thing you want to do. You don’t just put it off now. You put it off FOREVER.

Can you imagine what would happen if some of the world’s greatest minds did this?

The Wright brothers would have never built the world’s first successful airplane, Thomas Edison wouldn’t have invented the light-bulb, and MC Hammer wouldn’t have invented “hammertime” (whatever that is…).

Second type of perfectionism

And that leads me to the other form of perfectionism.

The better one.

It’s the one where you actually take action and give something a go. Then, after some of its inevitable flaws are exposed, you LEARN from the experience, and strive for further improvement next time.

Personally, I’ve been working on getting closer to the second type of perfectionism (which is where I’d like to be). And my output has been increasing as a result.

Letting go of perfectionism

Yes, it takes a “leap of faith” to let go of the curse of perfectionism (at least the FIRST type of perfectionism).

It means you have to face your fears, and actually get off your ass and start on the goal you’ve been wanting to achieve. You have to ACCEPT that it’s not going to be perfect.

And that’s OK.

Sometimes it’s tempting to put that off and try to plan everything to the most minute detail first. But no matter how hard you try, nothing is EVER going to be planned to the last absolute detail (even your inevitable funeral one day!).

It’s often better to just “go go go!”, and tweak on the way.

The personal satisfaction from actually making things happen can be incredible. And the inspiration and motivation you will gain from it will continue to propel you towards further action. Even if it’s not “perfect”.

The solution to perfectionism

So if you suffer from being a “perfectionist” too, I urge you to just start somewhere, and make modifications as you go. This will always be better than wanting to make something big and perfect from the start.

While perfectionism is defined as “the state of being without a flaw or defect”, the truth is that NOTHING in this world will ever attain that kind of state.

By all means AIM for perfection, but don’t let it delay your action for yet another day…

About Adam Wozniak

Adam Wozniak is the founder and writer of Encouragement from a Stranger. He believes in the importance of encouraging people to think, question things, and live life on their own terms. Or something like that... – www.AdamWozniak.com

Comments

  1. mirek says:

    interestingly.., i think anyway.., and this sort of tags the perfection thing IMO (atm anyway), is the Japanese attitude to perfection, and if anyone knows anything about perfection its them.., i never thought perfection existed until i heard this.., ‘perfection is knowing when to stop.’ I thought it pretty bland until i remembered their Katanas (traditional swords).., the master makers know just when to stop refining the blade (bashing it) it before the blade goes blunt. Interesting metaphor for the rest of us.., maybe?? Cant see how at this moment, but im sure one could work their way round it.

  2. Adam Wozniak says:

    Hi Mirek,

    “Perfection is knowing when to stop.” – I’ve always liked that quote too.