Hi, my name is DeBora and I'm a recovering perfectionist.
If you can relate, then I want to encourage you to free yourself. I'm especially talking to my wannabe authors and entrepreneurs. Why this group? Because I know them best. I'm one of you.
A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault. ~John Henry Newman
First, what is perfectionism? An online dictionary says perfectionism is, "A tendency to set rigid high standards of personal performance." The key words here are "rigid high standards." Standards are good. They are necessary. We like to do business with people that have high standards, right? But rigidity is dangerous, particularly when we're creating something new. New creations like books and businesses require our flexibility, our willingness to take risks and make mistakes, our ability to embrace uncertainty and awkwardness.
This is why I often say "Done is Better than Perfect." For a recovering perfectionist, this is progress of colossal proportions.
Perfectionism is a dream killer. See, perfectionists take fewer risks than non-perfectionists. The perfectionist plays it safe. She accomplishes far less than she could because she imagines she must wait until her rendering is beyond reproach before she releases that new idea, book, painting, project, program to the world. That's how dreams die. The perfectionist decides they're just not yet good enough for the world. And "not yet" very often means never.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. ~ Anne Lamott
What do you desire to create? What keeps you from creating it? Are you still analyzing it? Does it require more research? Are you waiting for the perfect time or conditions? Do you say you need another credential, degree, certification before you're credible?
Know that these are the many disguises of perfectionism, and they aren't your friend. Oh, and please don't confuse perfectionism with the pursuit of excellence. The person committed to excellence writes the book, self-edits, hires an editor, then publishes the book. After giving it her best if she spots a typo or three, she still feels good about her accomplishment. And thus she goes forth to market and promote her book. On the other hand the perfectionist never starts her book. Or fails to finish it. If she completes it, she refuses to release it to the world for fear of disapproval and judgment. Brene Brown says, "Many people think of perfectionism as striving to be your best, but it is not about self-improvement; it's about earning approval and acceptance.
The need for approval and acceptance immobilizes the perfectionist. Many would-be authors will never write and publish their book because they care too much about what the infamous "they" might think or say.
Here are a few things that can help you overcome perfectionism:
1. Let's get real - Nobody's perfect. To be human is to be imperfect.
2. Learn to live with uncertainty - Even embrace it.
3. Take bite size risks - Then observe that the world didn't stop when you "failed."
4. Practice self-compassion - Why? Your perfectionist mind will beat you unmercifully after you make a so-called mistake. Treat yourself as you would a small child that you love. When that child falls down, you lovingly pick them up. You deserve your own compassion.
5. Think of others more than you do yourself - Perfectionists are a self-conscious bunch. When you think and care more about what you're giving to others, and less about how you'll be perceived and received you'll see just how significant you and your contributions are.
6. Adopt my lovely mantra "Done is Better Than Perfect" - Strive for the best but don't castigate yourself if what you produce has a mistake or three.
Perfectionism is a prison. One doesn't escape from it by fleeing out of the prison door, but instead one must spoon their way to freedom one scoop at a time. So, go ahead and start that book, painting, program, business. And when the oppressive voice of perfectionism starts talking smack, remember that it's not your friend though it promises to keep you "safe." There is no danger here, except your growth and expansion and freedom. All are your birthright, so go for it.
Don't let perfectionism become an excuse for never getting started. ~Marilu Henner
By the way, if you spot a typo or two in this article then you can say, "That DeBora practices what she preaches." If I see it later, the editor in me will, however, correct it.