Last week, I wrote a little love note to my old friend, Perfectionism, asking her to take a back seat and let Creativity navigate for a bit.
(I love this mental image, BTW. Me, driving towards my destination while Creativity manages the Spotify playlist and checks Waze to make sure we’re on the right track. Perfectionism is pouting in the backseat, but she’s quiet and sitting on her hands for now, so all is well.)
Anyway, when I sat down to write last week, I didn’t intend to write that piece. My plan was to provide a detailed, well-written, systematic exploration of why perfectionism is problematic and what we should do instead. I know. Yawn, right?
Fortunately for all of us, my Muse had a different idea. After all, you don’t need me to list the ways being a perfectionist can bite you in the ass, do you? We can all agree perfectionism can take a brutal toll if not managed.
But how do we do that? How do we manage perfectionism? Aha, I think. I’ve found my next blog post. So I started to make a list of all the ways I manage my perfectionistic tendencies, because Lord knows I love a list. (Especially to-do lists. I always keep a to-do list. And that feeling you get when you check something off? The best.)
Anyway, so I’m crafting this list of what to do and what not to do, and I realize… I don’t need a list. I can describe how to fight back against perfectionism with just three little words.
(No, not “I love you.” Though you could argue that loving and accepting yourself reduces perfectionism, but that’s not where I’m going with this.)
Do It Anyway.
That’s it. That’s all there is. Whatever it is you’re not doing because you’re worried it won’t be perfect… do it anyway. Be brave. Be bold. Take a risk. Jump in. And do it anyway.
For me, the most limiting aspect of perfectionism is its crippling paralysis. Let’s say I have this extraordinary idea for a blog post, or presentation, or coaching tool. I get this fantastic rush of energy, one that’s rooted in opportunity and creativity. It’s amazing.
And then my perfectionism rolls up and slows me down, usually under the guise of “preparation.” After all, if you’re going to do something, you should do it right. Right? So I throw myself into research, into thinking instead of doing, because whatever it is I want to do, I’ve got to do it right the first time.
And research is so seductive. Seriously. I love learning new things and making new connections, and when I’m deep in the process, it feels like I’m working on my good idea. And maybe I am, at first. But after a while, I’m merely procrastinating, postponing action because I’m afraid to fail. I get drawn away from the energy of opportunity into ResearchLand, lost in the vortex of analysis paralysis.
The cure? Do it anyway.
So when I have a good idea for a blog post, presentation, or coaching tool? I start writing. Even if it’s just a quick outline, I translate that opportunity energy into words and get something on the page. My creativity gets to experiment a bit, with no inhibition or censorship. It’s okay if I don’t know everything or get it exactly right. There’s time later to polish. Right now, my goal is to do it anyway.
After that initial creation session, then I’m allowed to supplement my idea with research. My inner nerd gets her chance to geek out on analysis, but not at the expense of my inner artist.
Realizing that research enables my perfectionistic tendencies was a huge breakthrough for me. It allowed me to flip the script, so that instead of drowning my creativity, research enhances it.
So, when you think about perfectionism, what holds you back and keeps you stuck? And what will it look like when you do it anyway? Let me know in the comments!